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Pictures | Wed Feb 24, 2021 | 3:30pm EST

Exhausted by COVID-19 fight, Portuguese nurses struggle to pay bills

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) during the coronavirus pandemic in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. At midnight nurse Ines Lopes and her colleagues start the night shift taking care of patients in a COVID-19 intensive care unit in the heart of Lisbon. Nursing is a job they love but it barely pays the bills. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) during the coronavirus pandemic in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. At midnight nurse Ines Lopes and her colleagues start the night shift taking care...more

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) during the coronavirus pandemic in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. At midnight nurse Ines Lopes and her colleagues start the night shift taking care of patients in a COVID-19 intensive care unit in the heart of Lisbon. Nursing is a job they love but it barely pays the bills. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Politicians, celebrities and people across Portugal have spent much of the coronavirus pandemic praising frontline health workers, sometimes emerging from their homes to clap and cheer on the medics.

But that has fuelled frustration among health professionals struggling to make ends meet due to low salaries and lack of opportunities to move up the career ladder, Lopes said. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Politicians, celebrities and people across Portugal have spent much of the coronavirus pandemic praising frontline health...more

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Politicians, celebrities and people across Portugal have spent much of the coronavirus pandemic praising frontline health workers, sometimes emerging from their homes to clap and cheer on the medics. But that has fuelled frustration among health professionals struggling to make ends meet due to low salaries and lack of opportunities to move up the career ladder, Lopes said. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares her dinner before the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. "They (politicians) say we are the best in the world but then there are no salary increases," Lopes, 30, told Reuters in the small two-bedroom apartment she shares with her sister and a cat in a residential area on Lisbon's outskirts.

"Clapping and thanking us won't solve a thing," she said, adding many nurses work two jobs to provide for their families. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares her dinner before the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. "They (politicians) say we are the best in the world but then there are no salary increases," Lopes, 30, told Reuters in the...more

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares her dinner before the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. "They (politicians) say we are the best in the world but then there are no salary increases," Lopes, 30, told Reuters in the small two-bedroom apartment she shares with her sister and a cat in a residential area on Lisbon's outskirts. "Clapping and thanking us won't solve a thing," she said, adding many nurses work two jobs to provide for their families. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. There are nearly 45,500 nurses at the national health service (SNS) split into three professional categories. Nearly half, including Lopes, make 1,205 euros ($1,465) per month before tax.

After tax, some take home as little as 980 euros, just 315 euros above the minimum wage, according to the Nurses' Order.

Even those who have worked for two decades sometimes earn the same, the nurses union SEP said. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. There are nearly 45,500 nurses at the national health service (SNS) split into three professional categories. Nearly half,...more

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to leave home for the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. There are nearly 45,500 nurses at the national health service (SNS) split into three professional categories. Nearly half, including Lopes, make 1,205 euros ($1,465) per month before tax. After tax, some take home as little as 980 euros, just 315 euros above the minimum wage, according to the Nurses' Order. Even those who have worked for two decades sometimes earn the same, the nurses union SEP said. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes arrives at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Lopes graduated from nursing school in 2012 amid an economic crisis and spent a year looking for work. As Portugal froze nurses' career progression and salaries, thousands of her colleagues went abroad seeking better pay. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Lopes graduated from nursing school in 2012 amid an economic crisis and spent a year looking for work. As Portugal froze...more

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Lopes graduated from nursing school in 2012 amid an economic crisis and spent a year looking for work. As Portugal froze nurses' career progression and salaries, thousands of her colleagues went abroad seeking better pay. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. 
Lopes' salary has remained the same since she started. Now she is bracing for the economic impact of the pandemic, which was harder to fight due to a shortage of nurses and doctors.

"There have been many governments but it's always the same thing," Lopes said. "Everyone is feeling down."

The Socialist government "unfroze" career progression in the public sector in 2018, but it could take a nurse up to a decade to get enough awards points for a pay rise under the system. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Lopes' salary has remained the same since she started. Now she is bracing for the economic impact of the pandemic,...more

Nurse Ines Lopes arrives to work the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. Lopes' salary has remained the same since she started. Now she is bracing for the economic impact of the pandemic, which was harder to fight due to a shortage of nurses and doctors. "There have been many governments but it's always the same thing," Lopes said. "Everyone is feeling down." The Socialist government "unfroze" career progression in the public sector in 2018, but it could take a nurse up to a decade to get enough awards points for a pay rise under the system. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes speaks with a nurse during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. Last year, a total of 1,230 nurses asked the Nurses' Order for the paperwork to be able to work abroad.

In January, the government approved temporary measures to support the health service, including a 50% bonus on overtime payment for those on the frontline and gave the SNS the possibility to hire more nurses and doctors.

It announced a 0.3% wage increase for the public sector in March 2020, which doctors' union SIM described as "unworthy". REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes speaks with a nurse during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. Last year, a total of 1,230 nurses asked the Nurses' Order for the paperwork to be able to work abroad. In January, the...more

Nurse Ines Lopes speaks with a nurse during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. Last year, a total of 1,230 nurses asked the Nurses' Order for the paperwork to be able to work abroad. In January, the government approved temporary measures to support the health service, including a 50% bonus on overtime payment for those on the frontline and gave the SNS the possibility to hire more nurses and doctors. It announced a 0.3% wage increase for the public sector in March 2020, which doctors' union SIM described as "unworthy". REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares to enter a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes leaves a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes leaves a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes leaves a COVID-19 patient room at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes looks at a picture wall of Intensive Care Unit medical staff during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes looks at a picture wall of Intensive Care Unit medical staff during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes looks at a picture wall of Intensive Care Unit medical staff during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes prepares medication at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares medication at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes prepares medication at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes checks the patients' vitals from the nurseling room during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021.  REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes checks the patients' vitals from the nurseling room during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes checks the patients' vitals from the nurseling room during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works at Sao Jose Hospital, Intensive Care Unit in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes checks her phone during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes checks her phone during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes checks her phone during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021.  REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes with her fellow nurses eat at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes with her fellow nurses eat at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes with her fellow nurses eat at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021.  REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient during the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes is seen in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes enters a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes enters a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes enters a COVID-19 patient room at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021.  REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes works in a room with a COVID-19 patient at the night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 19, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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Nurse Ines Lopes goes home before her night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes goes home before her night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes

Nurse Ines Lopes goes home before her night shift at Sao Jose Hospital in Lisbon, Portugal, February 18, 2021. REUTERS/Pedro Nunes
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