Portuguese PM in row over calling doctors 'cowards'

Agence France-Presse

Posted at Aug 26 2020 01:55 AM

Portugal's Prime Minister Antonio Costa met a top doctors' representative Tuesday to apologise for calling a group of medics sent into a virus-stricken retirement home "cowards".

Costa "clearly communicated the respect and confidence he has" in the profession, said the president of the Order of Physicians, Miguel Guimaraes.

Costa himself said he hoped the "misunderstandings" had been cleared up.

The row erupted after doctors had to be sent into a retirement home in southern Portugal where 18 had died of the virus and the infected staff were themselves unable to continue caring for the residents.

A seven-second video clip widely shared on social networks had shown Costa complaining that "the president of the regional health authority sent the doctors to do their jobs. And these guys, the cowards, didn't do anything."

The remarks were from an off-the-record conversation following an interview Costa gave to the Expresso weekly.

But a statement from the Order of Physicians said that whether on or off the record, the remarks were offensives.

Despite a lack of resources, their members had never refused to cooperate in looking after the sick, elderly people, dismissing allegations made by the prime minister, said the Order.

In the portion of the interview that was published Saturday, Costa had defended the state against criticism from the Order of Physicians, saying the health authorities had "reacted immediately" to the retirement home crisis.

Portugal has recorded 1,805 deaths and 55,912 infections from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, among a population of roughly 10 million people.