LISBON, Portugal (AP) - Portuguese doctors are staging a 48-hour strike to protest austerity measures they say are weakening the country's publicly-funded health service.
The government has to reduce health spending as part of deep budget cuts promised in return for a €78 billion ($96 billion) bailout last year.
Trade unions complain that some doctors are working excessive hours and are protesting against the increasing use of private companies to provide public services.
The government has also increased nominal charges for some services. Emergency room charges have risen to €20 from €9.60.
Neither authorities nor unions provided turnout figures for Wednesday's first day of protest.
Many hospitals rescheduled surgery and clinics postponed medical appointments ahead of the strike which was announced last month.
Emergency services were unaffected.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.