Raríssimas ‘scandal’: workers appeal to government in bid to survive

The Raríssimas ‘scandal’ (click here) continues to generate heat and headlines today as workers have announced the association that cares for children and adults with rare diseases is now ‘at risk’ without access to money to operate.

At a press conference this morning, the appeal went out to Prime Minister António Costa to personally intervene.

In the meantime, former secretary of state Manuel Delgado has said he is considering suing TVI over its ‘exposé’ which he believes “exceeded all the limits”, while reports elsewhere claim the current government “quadrupled payments” to the association in January this year.

The trouble with this ‘scandal’ is that Raríssimas has been a cause close to so many ‘VIPs’ – from Letizia, Queen of Spain to Maria, the wife of former Portuguese president Cavaco Silva who is the association’s ‘madrinha’ (god-mother).

For these people to suddenly be ‘connected’ to an alleged financial scandal is potentially very toxic.

But potentially toxic too is the background to how TVI actually came by this ‘scandal’. There has been the suggestion that it was fuelled by the government itself after European funding to Raríssmas was tracked “for some time from Brussels” and “serious anomalies” spotted.

Whatever the case, the mess is now very much out in the open – seriously affecting Raríssimas’ various centres up and down the country (there is even one in Loulé).

Said staff representative Manuela Duarte at the press conference today: “We don’t have money to feed our patients much longer. We don’t have money to give them medication for very long” – all because there is suddenly no access to Raríssimas funds as, with president Paula Brito e Costa’s resignation, there is no one in legitimate command.

The bottom-line is that the association that cares for around 300 vulnerable people could close unless prime minister António Costa establishes some kind of temporary access to funds while the scandal is properly investigated.

Duarte stressed that Raríssimas has “all conditions to function properly, with excellent services… rigour and ethics” but it needs mechanisms put into effect fast if it is to survive.

Maria Cavaco Silva has reiterated this message herself, saying it would be unthinkable to see the association fall.

As for Manuel Delgado and Paula Brito e Costa, both are keeping a low profile today, after the former has admitted to journalists that he is considering legal action against TVI for “devastating” his private life (the station inferred that his relationship with Paula Brito e Costa was not simply professional. Both are married to other people).

And PSD MPs are calling for Minister of Labour and Social Security Vieira da Silva to answer questions before the weekend on the extent of his knowledge of Raríssima’s financial situation.

Said the party’s parliamentary leader Hugo Soares: “No one would understand if the government left for the weekend without giving the country the explanations it demands”.

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Photo: an inconvenient shot purportedly showing the former Raríssimas president enjoying a laugh on a beach in Brazil with former health secretary Manuel Delgado