A BRITISH baby boy has died in an Algarve hospital after falling ill while on holiday with his parents.
The 11-month baby lost his life while awaiting a 50-minute transfer from an intensive care unit at Portimao Hospital to Faro Hospital to reportedly be treated for septicaemia.
The unnamed child was pronounced dead late on Friday after his condition worsened, with local reports saying he went into cardiac arrest on route to an air ambulance.
He is thought to have fallen ill with bronchitis before medics discovered he had septicaemia and died at Portimao Hospital after his condition worsened.
The tragedy has led to demands for an investigation in Portugal after it emerged a medicalised helicopter had to be scrambled to take the baby to Faro because a lack of specialist staff made a normal transfer by road impossible.
Portuguese news outlet Correio da Manha claimed medics on the Algarve had initially sought a transfer to Santa Cruz Hospital in Lisbon before deciding to transfer the baby to Faro using an air ambulance.
The youngster has been described locally only as a “foreign child”, but well-placed sources confirmed today he was British and was on holiday with his family.
A spokesman for Portugal’s National Institute of Medical Emergency (INEM), said it had a received a request from Portimao Hospital to transport an 11-month-old baby to an intensive care paediatric unit at 2.18pm local time on Friday.
They insisted the child was being “properly accompanied” by the hospital’s paediatric teams at the time.
In a statement it added that the Faro Hospital found itself “without paediatrics”, the paediatric transport ambulance was “inoperative” and “TIP Lisbon engaged on another medical emergency job”.
They say this led to the activation of the Algarve helicopter just after 3pm.
However, the INEM spokesperson said the teams returned to Portimao Hospital at 5.45pm after the baby suffered a “worsening of its clinical condition which prevented the transfer”.
The agency added: “INEM deeply regrets the outcome of this situation and we send our sincere and heartfelt condolences to the baby’s family.”
Before INEM responded to the tragedy, a Portuguese hospital union chief demanded an investigation into the British child’s hospital death.
Rui Lazaro said other solutions could have been activated such as the transfer of a specialist medical team to Portimao Hospital by helicopter.
He insisted: “They could have come from Lisbon, or Coimbra or even from Porto.
“Someone from INEM or from the guidance centre for emergency patients must have made that decision not to activate that option.
“We don’t know why it occurred and this needs to be properly investigated.
“The appropriate means were not made available in a timely manner.”
Well-placed sources said the youngster had been put on antibiotics after being diagnosed with bronchitis.
They allege he was getting better at his holiday accommodation with his family before taking a turn for the worse and being admitted to Portimao Hospital where doctors discovered he had septicaemia.
The source said: “The main problem was that the ambulance that would normally have taken the child to Faro Hospital was inoperative because there was no paediatric emergency physician available.
“It was off-duty for 24 hours.”
The union now calling for an investigation into Friday’s tragedy has complained about several recent cases of emergency ambulance delays in Portugal.
One involved a 74-year-old man in Tavira near Faro it said waited 52 minutes for an ambulance to be found to help him after suffering a suspected stroke.
Another issue was a suicide attempt where the union claims an ambulance was only sent to the scene an hour and 45 minutes after the initial call and resulted in the person being declared dead.