Following publication of a damning report last Thursday claiming Portugal’s largest hospital is run by outside interests – specifically Freemasons, Opus Dei and political parties – the report’s author has revealed she is “particularly upset” to hear the hospital is now suing her and fellow researchers.
Sónia Pires revealed her “bombshell” last week, amid howls of protest from Lisbon’s Santa Maria Hospital.
IGAS health inspectors have since embarked on a full-scale inquiry – with health minister Paulo Macedo agreeing that the hospital’s administrative board is “analysing the matter”.
Meantime, the president of the board, Carlos Martins, has wasted no time condemning the report, calling it an act of “tremendous irresponsibility”.
But as Pires countered in her team’s defence, the findings were based on data collected and, as such, “the material is empirical”.
The nub of Pires’ findings – as part of a study into six hospitals ordered by the Francisco Manuel dos Santos Foundation – was that “Masonic interests, Opus Dei and links to political parties are still three external realities that interfere with Hospital de Santa Maria (HSM)”.
In spite of some improvements made since 2005, she claims the hospital “continues to be crossed by strong conflicts of interest and acts in grey or silenced areas which constitute corruption”.
Irregularities in the purchase of equipment and issues relating to people jumping hospital waiting lists were incidences to which Pires referred.
Taking some of the heat out of the situation, the investigation’s coordinator Margarida Marques said that perhaps the real issue lay with people’s interpretation of the word “corruption”.
The Santa Maria had its weaknesses, she agreed, but it was basically “a good institution that contributes to the development and objectives for which it was created”.
“To pass someone in third place into second or first (in a waiting list) would be defined as corruption according to the definitions of our study, but in our day-to-day understanding of the word, do people see this as corruption?” – study coordinator.
By NATASHA DONN