Portugal mulls transfer of Covid-19 patients to Austria

Portugal has become Europe's Covid epicentre in recent weeks.
Portugal has become Europe's Covid epicentre in recent weeks.PHOTO: REUTERS

LISBON (AFP) - Portugal is considering transferring patients to Austria for treatment because its hospitals are being overwhelmed by the coronavirus, the health ministry said Friday (Feb 5).

The country has already accepted help from Germany, which dispatched personnel to reinforce Portuguese medics who have been stretched to their limits by a surge in Covid-19 cases.

Portugal's health ministry said it was now studying an offer from the government in Vienna to transfer Portuguese patients, including those suffering from Covid-19, to hospitals in Austria.

"These are important gestures of European solidarity, and also symbolic of the battle against the pandemic," a ministry statement said.

The Austrian offer, which would involve five patients being treated for Covid-19 and five others suffering from other afflictions, is being studied by intensive care specialists, the ministry said.

"Transferring patients abroad should only be done as a last resort," noted Dr Jose Artur Paiva, head of an intensive care unit at a major hospital in Sao Joao de Porto, northern Portugal.

The country has become Europe's Covid epicentre in recent weeks, with more than 900 patients admitted to ICUs for the first time since the pandemic struck almost a year ago.

On Wednesday, 26 German military doctors and nurses arrived to staff an eight-bed ICU at a private hospital near Lisbon.

"The main problem here in Portugal is that the personnel has too much to do," noted Colonel Jens-Peter Evers, who was in charge of the German deployment.

"They have a lot of equipment and a lot of patients and the main problem is they need support with personnel," he told AFP.

"It's a huge challenge for every health system and the problems are always the same in every country," Col Evers remarked.