Orpea scandal: the author of “Fossoyeurs” denounces semi-reforms


Posted Jan 25, 2023, 7:00 AMUpdated on Jan 25, 2023 at 8:32 am

The Ehpad sector is in crisis, and “when a sector is in crisis to this point, an overhaul law is needed”, slices Victor Castanet in an interview with “Echos”. On January 26, 2022, his book “Les Fossoyeurs” triggered the Orpea scandal. A year and 170,000 copies sold later, its pocket format comes out on Wednesday. In one year, the independent journalist has gained weight: his accusations against the practices of the Ehpad manager have been confirmed, and he is adding ten new chapters to his book.

These additional pages take stock of a stormy year and spare no one. Neither the communication agency of Orpea Image 7, nor the digital influence agencies, which tried to discredit the “Gravediggers”, nor the government. It describes how Macronie prevented the holding of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into Orpea when the book was released. “She could have provided a response, not judicial but political, to open the door to a change in the law” on the sector, regrets Victor Castanet.

Old age law buried

There is still no old age bill. Emmanuel Macron had promised in 2018 a law on the financing of dependency for 2019, which has not seen the light of day. Then promised in 2020 an old age law for 2021, but nothing. Finally, this law disappeared in 2022 from his presidential program and the Orpea scandal did not make it reappear.

“The facts are stubborn, and if we refuse to look them in the face, the same dramas will happen again. Still would have to […] that the executive power really takes hold of the subject. This was not the case, unfortunately, in the Orpea crisis. Another kind of gravediggers…”, denounces the updated version of the book.

Only exists at this stage a bill tabled in mid-December by deputies, “taking measures to build the society of aging well in France”. Its future is uncertain.

Holes in the racket

However, the state issued an emergency decree in the spring of 2022 prohibiting certain practices by Orpea – such as profiting from the end-of-year discounts obtained from suppliers on purchases paid for with public money. A digital platform to collect reports of abuse in nursing homes will also be launched “soon” to “free speech” and facilitate their monitoring, announced Tuesday the Minister of Solidarity Jean-Christophe Combe.

But rather than continuing to plug the (many) holes in the regulatory racket, “we should restructure the sector, refinance it, frame it in a new way and bring it a vision”, opposes Victor Castanet.

The author regrets that even measures that do not cost money are not applied. “Reinforcing the staff of regional health agencies for more control would not be very expensive, and of the ten quality indicators mentioned for nursing homes, in the end only five were retained by a recent implementing decree, deplores Victor Castanet. The five most interesting have disappeared, including the food budget allocated by an establishment to its residents, the turnover of its staff and its absenteeism rate”.

health survey

Still, progress is undeniable. The system put in place by Orpea has come to an end. But the future of the group is uncertain. Negotiations with its creditors are continuing and Caisse des Dépôts, in order to become a shareholder, demands to have control of it. “Orpea going public would be a good thing. The Caisse des Dépôts would lower the profitability requirements, which would reduce the financial pressure on the directors of Ehpad. This would avoid other scandals, ”judges Victor Castanet.

After three years of investigating nursing homes, he moved on. Or almost… “Financial pressure and the deterioration of working conditions affect the entire health sector. It’s a sector that fascinates me, and I have other investigations in progress for a book, ”he confides.

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