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Portugal’s health minister resigns after emergency services closures

Portugal’s Health Minister Marta Temido resigned on Tuesday following widespread criticism of her decision to temporarily close emergency obstetric services, forcing risky transfers of pregnant women between hospitals.

The Health Ministry said in a statement Temido had decided to step down because she “realised that she no longer had the conditions to remain in office”.

In a separate statement, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said he had accepted her resignation and thanked Temido for her work, which included organising a successful vaccination campaign against Covid-19.

The government took the measure to close emergency obstetric services, especially at weekends, as several hospitals did not have enough doctors during the summer holidays.

Opposition parties and municipalities have criticised the minister because pregnant women sometimes have to make risky trips to hospitals far away.

Temido’s resignation came hours after reports emerged that a pregnant woman died on Saturday after suffering a cardiac arrest during an ambulance transfer from Lisbon’s main hospital Santa Maria, which had no vacancies in the neonatology service, to another hospital in the capital.

Temido became health minister in October, 2018 and last year was among the most popular government members thanks to the success of the vaccination campaign, according to opinion polls.

But more recently her star has faded due to staffing and other problems at many public hospitals and after thousands of doctors presented the so-called refusal of responsibility, citing poor working conditions and extreme fatigue. Reuters

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