A visit to the Centre de Saúde

Normally, you have to wait about a month to see a Doctor at our local Centre de Saúde (Health Centre). Even then, you can’t guarantee the Doctor will actually turn up! Probably the scarcities of appointments are due to people booking appointments on a ‘just in case I’m ill’, basis.

You can imagine my surprise when we popped into our local Centre de Saúde to collect a prescription and I casually asked.
 “Is it possible to see a doctor, please?” as I muttered under my breath “in less than a month
 The receptionist cheerily replied.
This afternoon
As most of this conversation was conducted in pigeon Portuguese I thought I had misunderstood,
Hoje (today)?” I asked incredulously.
Sim (yes)”
So my appointment was set for 14.00.

Hubby of course was cynical and I, ever the optimist, was hopeful.

I returned at the appointed time and booked in. Damn, I had forgotten to take a watch with me. There are 3 clocks in the Centre de Saúde but each sport a different time. I ‘people watch’ for what seemed an eternity trying to tune into various conversations of the local Portuguese. Two and two do make five when you are eavesdropping in a second language!

The doctor arrives an hour late and I wait to be called.  False alarm, a further 40 minutes pass and I am still waiting. I am hot and bothered as tt’s nearly 40C outside and the reception area is stifling.

Finally, I am summoned by the doctor.
Fala ingles?” I asked hopefully.
Our English speaking doctor left suddenly a month ago and the Spanish locum, her temporary replacement, I now discover speaks absolutely no English whatsoever! We looked at each other in desperation as I explained
“Eu naõ falo Portuguese boa”
While my Portuguese will certainly not win any awards I should at least win an Oscar for dramatizing my complaint. An hour later both exhausted she announces something…

I looked at her expectantly…err
What, pardon?” errr “I don’t understand”

The Doctor rings through to reception and shortly afterwards a nurse appears, and announces she will translate.
”The doctor has run out of time today, please come back tomorrow”

Dazed and a little fraught I am escorted back to reception to make another appointment for tomorrow. It’s now 16.40 and there are still six people waiting to see the doctor. Poor things

I return home none the wiser. Hubby of course greets me with an I told you so” expression.
“You look worse than when you went”

The following day I reluctantly return to Centre de Saúde for round two.

I arrived on time (very British), but as I walked into the waiting area I was horrified to see the long queue of  hot and weary people waiting to see the doctor. I cautiously greeted the receptionists who both looked like they would eat the next person alive who gave them grief! (I am sure you know that look) I pointed to all the people and said
“Spanish Doctor?”
“Sim” They said unanimously shaking their heads. “Muitos gentes”

I cancel my appointment as the prospect of having to wait 3hrs is not an option and having made the decision I suddenly felt a lot better!

I return home to another dose of “I told you so!”.
and a rather large glass of chilled Portuguese white wine to help me destress!

Please share your experiences good and bad…

13 thoughts on “A visit to the Centre de Saúde

Add yours

  1. the Portuguese health system is failing , even with a massive decline in population due to many many young people moving abroad for work .
    It is very clear that Portugal has joined a long list of countries with very very incompetent politicians and unaccountable civil servants


  2. And its not getting any better in our Region near Tomar , it now takes at least 2 months to see a doctor , and the hospital is now nothing more than a triage centre .


  3. Well I find this amazing, I fould the HealthCentres in Portugual great where I lived in Setubal they had an area for emergencies and other where you made appointments it worked well somedays yes there was a wait but mostly I got in on time.


    1. Hi Ailsa and welcome,

      I have found the healthcare in Portugal to be better overall than in the UK and when my husband was in hospital the care he received by the nurses was second to none.

      I think the healthcare centres vary drastically. A Portuguese friend I know now goes privately to see the doctor. Our Centre de Suade, does not have an emerency centre and when a friend of ours was stung by a scorpian he had to drive over 25km to the nearest hospital to receive any form of treatment. Even the local Portuguese complain about our Centre de Suade and I believe they had a big meeting to complain. It’s like anywhere anything is only as good as those in charge.

      Kind regards


  4. Hi PIP,
    What a horror!
    About ten years ago I was seriously thinking about relocating to Mexico, because there was a lot more bang for the buck. But, since my wife was a nursing administrator we checked out the health care carefully, and put a big “X” through that idea.

    As of this minute here in the US it looks like the next generation is gong to suffer the same indignities here as you have to put up with in Portugal.

    I have had to communicate in a foreign tongue when I was sick, and I don’t have to tell you…it is no picnic. The last time it happened I was in Saigon, and I had some kind of food poisoning; I thought I had Malaria, and I finally found a DOC that spoke French; the Vietnamese was a non-starter for me, and Saigon was a dreadful, filthy mess!
    I survived until I get to Manila, and could communicate again.
    Take care, Charlie


    1. Hi Charlie,
      The quality of healthcare varies considerably in Portugal. We found once you were actually in hospital the level and quality of care far exceeded that of the UK! the wards were spotless and the nurses worked not just sat at their stations chatting. It’s just dealing with the local health centre which is the problem!
      Your experience in Saigon must have been frightening!
      Where are you based now?


  5. Wow! Have you got it sorted out yet? At this point you’ve probably had enough time to learn the Portuguese you need and become a citizen by now!
    At any rate, I think you at least have the correct prescription- a nice glass of wine does wonders!
    Good luck!


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