Now, this is a common topic for ex-pats and the opinions vary wildly. We
have been here nearly 3 years and we signed up for the health service back in december 08, when I was pregnant with Grace. At first, it wasnt easy, we had trouble signing up but that was to do with mis-training of the admin staff. Here in the algarve they do not normally assign a doctor (you see whoever is available) as there is a shortage of doctors in the algarve. But after speaking to the right people, we got signed up and assigned our own doctor and they have been great. The doctor has his own nurse and she deals with the children and maternity, alongside the doctor. The doctor deals with all adult problems. But we can not fault the service we have here in Tavira and also at Faro hospital. Sometimes, if you dont have an appointment, the wait can be long but nothing different to what you get in england. I think that being in the east algarve helps as it is less populated and im sure the long waits and lack of doctors really affect the west side more.
Recently, I had to go to the doctor, for the first time, apart from maternity. Normally, Joao my husband comes with me and its like old friends, as I dont not speak much portuguese (tisk, tisk) but this time he couldnt. I was quite nervous about going alone as my doctor does not speak english, but I have been twice now and he has been really good. I have had a persistent cough for over two months, they thought it was TB, but after some tests,that was negative, thank god! But they still dont know why I am coughing, but instead of giving me some medicine and sending me away, he is doing tests and trying to find out why I am coughing. I cannot fault this health service, at least my medical centre, all the staff are friendly and nice.