I first tried to register with the health system in Portugal in December, which required me to go to the Centro de Saúde to get a piece of paper with an email address on which I needed to email to register. I couldn’t find this email address online anywhere. I received no reply to this email, and then followed up a few weeks later, with no reply again.

Two months after my initial email I was still not registered according to SNS24 so I sent another email stating the urgency of my registration because I needed to see a doctor.

I then phoned SNS24 a few weeks later about a health problem and was told to go to my registered Centro de Saúde in Marvila, 2.4 miles from where I live in Lisbon. This was the first time I heard that I was finally registered, but it was strange that it was so far away.

After queueing for more than 30 mins outside at 8am, I entered only to be told that I can’t be registered there because I live too far away. No amount of talking with them would get them to even look on their computer to see that I had in fact been registered there, even it it was a mistake.

I phoned SNS24 again and was told that they should see me at that Centro de Saúde but that he can’t really do anything about it if they say no, and that I can instead go to the hospital because I had chest pain. Without this chest pain, which was seen as more urgent, I think I would probably need to wait to get registered at another Centro de Saúde nearer my home to be seen.

This was the first situation.

Next situation was when I was tested for COVID last weekend. I was never contacted about the result after waiting 5 days, possibly because my contact details were either read incorrectly or lost (I was told to write them on a piece of scrap paper when I had my test). However, they should already have my details on the system because I already had a covid test a t that hospital previously.

I phoned the hospital after 4 days of isolating and was passed to many different departments one after the other echo of them saying I can’t get the results from them, and half of those requiring me to redial a different phone number. Main switch board to emergency department, to a doctor, to the lab, back to the emergency department, to the gestão doentes. At this department I was told that they will look into it. I called again hours later and they told me to phone again tomorrow. I called the next day and was told that they are still looking into it. Then I received an email a few hours later with a form which I need to fill out to request my test result, which could take several days. I phoned again telling them I need the result today and was passed to the emergency department again, who told me that I need to contact gestão doentes again for this.

It’s hard to believe how inefficient the healthcare system is here, especially during a pandemic when you are awaiting the test result of the virus which is causing the pandemic. How much time or money is wasted with problems like this?

John Shanahan,
By email