That the current economic crisis is having an impact on population health and healthcare utilisation across Europe is fairly established; how national health systems and markets are reacting is however still poorly understood. Drawing from the economic literature we conducted 21 interviews with physicians, policy-makers and healthcare managers in Portugal, to explore their perceptions on the impact of the crisis on the country's market medical services, on physicians’ motivation, and the ensuing coping strategies. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using NVivo software. We show that despite the crisis, few physicians reported considering leaving the public sector and the country, and very diverse coping strategies are emerging, depending on the respective employment institutions and seniority. In spite of the changes in patient case-mix, demand for medical services may not have necessarily increased, having shifted from public to private, with many highlighting the contribution of the current crisis in consolidating the private sector. In order to maintain their pre-crisis living standards amidst deteriorating salaries and increasing controls, hospital physicians have resorted to strategies such as shifting hours to the private, and primary care ones to anticipating their retirement. Migration was reported to be an option only for the younger and older doctors. Our study suggests the existence of resilience among Portuguese physicians and in the country's market for medical services, which, if corroborated by further research, will need to be taken into account by national health policies.
- Economic crisis and health in Europe
- Health markets in Portugal
- Physicians and economic crisis
- Physicians in Portugal
- Portuguese health system