A nationwide strike involving what appears to be thousands of doctors, nurses and other individuals frustrated with the austerity measures implemented by the Portuguese government has commenced with an expected duration of 2 days. Health workers' unions and organizations including the National Federation of Doctors are incensed by budget slashes amounting to almost 1 billion U.S. dollars as per required by a conditional 78 billion euro bailout offered to Portugal by the International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European Union.
The decision to go ahead with the nationwide strike comes after failed negotiations between the unions and Portugal's Ministry of Health headed by Health Minister Paulo Maceo.
Hospitals will have skeleton crews with available emergency services during the strike although almost half a million appointments and thousands of surgical operations will be delayed.
The government of Portugal, like its counterparts in Greece, Italy, Spain and other countries hit hard by the global financial crisis, has been reducing budgets and introducing austerity measures in all sectors.
In the health sector, the government has increased prices for treatments, medicine and other services including emergency room care, the price of which has shot up from roughly 10 euros to 20 euros.
Many people are concerned by the increase in the prices of medication which is also leaving individuals unable to afford both medicine and health care.
Meanwhile, doctors and nurses have protested at the cheap purchases of poorly-lacking medical equipment, the firing of over 100 health workers and the cut down of the quality of the country's overall health care.
There seems to be little option left for the debt-ridden country and its government as public deficit and debt must be cut down through austerity measures, tax hikes and reforms.
In fact, the Portuguese government has even desperately removed four holidays from the calendar for 5 years starting in 2013 to add more working days and add a little bit amount of fuel to the economic fire the country desperately needs. Those four holidays include Portugal's Independence day and Corpus Christi.
Portugal has been faring badly in today's world with recession and a tremendous amount of debt next to fellow countries Greece, Ireland, Italy and neighboring Spain.
The measures implemented by the government have expectantly frustrated and provoked tens of thousands into protesting which has been incessantly rocking the country with no end in sight.
(Cover Photo: Reuters / Nurses chain themselves during a protest in front of the Health Ministry in Lisbon July 6, 2012. Portuguese Nurses Union (SEP) organized a demonstration to protest against subcontracting of nurses to health centers and hospitals.)