"During the pandemic, we found that the vast majority of units decreased in the overall performance index. In most of the health centres, the global performance index dropped a lot, a few dozen points, as a result of the pandemic", the president of the OM's Southern Regional Council told Lusa.

In order to assess the specific reasons for this decrease in the performance of family health units (USF) during the pandemic, the OM is carrying out a series of visits, having already visited the Alentejo and Setúbal, with three more visits planned to USFs in Lisbon, Oeiras and Cascais, followed by Faro at the beginning of June.

"If this indicator has fallen, knowing that family doctors and health centres are working hard, we are realising that these doctors are doing many functions that were not proper of health centres," said Valentim Lourenço.

According to him, these clinicians are providing assistance to patients with respiratory illnesses and vaccination against Covid-19, which "means that what they used to do is no longer being done".

Despite the more favourable indicators of the pandemic in recent weeks in most parts of the country in terms of pressure on health services, Alexandre Valentim Lourenço assured that this situation "continues in the same way", as doctors have been channelled into vaccination.

"Instead of having doctors and nurses contracted for vaccination centres, it is the health centres that are providing the doctors and nurses and there are still doctors who have been sent to treat respiratory diseases," he said.

According to the president of the OM's Southern Regional Council, the performance of these duties linked to the pandemic means that family doctors "don't have time to monitor diabetes, hypertension, do cancer screenings and attend family planning properly".

"These diseases will be diagnosed later and at a more advanced stage", warned Alexandre Valentim Lourenço.