Heard by the Social Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, two family lawyers, Sarah Saldman and Fabian Arakelian, questioned the practices of the Orpea and Korian groups. Noting the pressures suffered by the families of residents and by caregivers, they asked for the creation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry.
Of the “clear cases of abuse“, intimidation against families and caregivers… Lawyers Sarah Saldmann and Fabien Arakelian have heavily implicated the groups and Orpea and Korian before the Social Affairs Committee. The two councils were heard on Thursday, February 17 as part of the series of hearings organized at the National Assembly in response to the revelations of the book “Les Fossoyeurs”.This book by journalist Victor Castanet reports numerous acts of abuse in certain nursing homes managed by Orpea.
In front of the deputies, the two lawyers have long supported the revelations made by the journalist. Sarah Saldmann, for example, described the case of residents”rationed, left alone in front of a plate they can’t reach, unrecognizable from losing weight“. “How not to evoke this person left in a pool of blood and of which I have proof in photography?“, she addedalso referring to residents whose “fractures or strokes are discovered a few weeks later without the families ever being informed“.
Fabian Arakelian meanwhile listed many examples, for almost nine minutes. The lawyer thus pointed the finger at the Korian nursing home in Mougins which would be the subject of “patent findings of mistreatment, concealment of the state of health“.”In this file, II have a family that I defend who learned of the death of his father via an SMS from the funeral directors who asked him for his national identity card“, he explained. The council also targets the Ehpad Orpea in Neuilly and the situation, “to speak concretely and at the level of the daisies“, of a “deceased person who was in their feces and urine.“Fabien Arakelian cites, another example, the Ehpad Orpea Les Lilas, which was the subject of”findings of neglect, abuse, abandonment, lack of care” and that, “from 2019“: “You have seen that the defense is to say ‘it’s the Covid’, but the Covid has a good back.“
“These are situations of unprecedented gravity, these cases do not seem to me to be isolated situations“, has explained Sarah Saldman. The lawyer claims to have received 600 reports against the Orpea group, 500 against the Korian group and 39 against the DomusVi group. Fabien Arakelian speaks for his part of a “fifty complaints filed, around twenty openings of preliminary inquiries and around ten openings of judicial inquiries throughout France“.
The lawyer is however surprised not to have “the start of an investigation” in “the folders that are [siens]“.”Iit took this book to come out so that all of a sudden we woke up“, regrets Fabien Arakelian. The lawyer thus gives the example of a complaint filed against the Ehpad Orpea in Neuilly in November 2020: “On January 28, 2022, Hallelujah, the Nanterre prosecutor’s office decided to open a preliminary investigation, it’s curious, isn’t it?“The lawyer explains that he systematically lodges a complaint against X:”The responsibility, sometimes, of the regional health agencies can also arise and I have the demonstration of it in my files since the ARS, in many files, were alerted on the catastrophic situations.”
Families “victims by ricochet”
Sarah Saldmann also highlighted the feeling of “guilt” who “hugs the families of the victims“, which she refers to as “ricochet victims“. Some of them would have sold their real estate, “contracted loans“and would be”over-indebted“to offer their loved ones a room in renowned high-end establishments. The lawyer also mentions people “lonely, sometimes bereaved and who did not have the emotional resources to face groups as imposing as Orpea and Korian“.
“I [demande] Why weren’t these families able to express themselves so quickly and file a complaint?“, asked Valérie Six (UDI and independents). For Sarah Saldmann, the answer is obvious : “It’s like battered women who have been told ‘but wait, you haven’t done anything’.” “Not everyone can afford an apartment and put three people there around the clock to take care of a relative“, she added. According to lawyers, some families also give up for fear of “reprisals“.
A fear that is all the more logical according to Sarah Saldmann whom she esteems being the victim of threats herself:I have requests for eccentric private bodyguards, I have letters where I am told ‘take care of yourself’, requests for internships where people are not candidates at all (…), letters anonymous hand-written notes where I am told ‘in your place I would stop everything because it is not prudent…“
The lawyer alsogave his full support“to nursing staff, some of whom contact her,”often anonymously“: “They are the collateral victims of this tragedy.“She Relays The”certain hierarchical pressure“, the loneliness and the lack of training experienced by these personnel, “for most women“, who “commit acts contrary to their morality, for lack of means“.”They tell me ‘if I ever leave and take action, I won’t find a job’.“
Towards a commission of inquiry?
The extent of the accusations made Monique Iborra (La République en Marche), author of a report on nursing homes in 2018, react: “It would not be honest on our part to say that we had never heard of anything, because it is false and therefore our responsibility is very largely engaged.“The elected official said she wanted to set up a commission of inquiry, which would offer the deputies”a possibility of investigation that goes beyond what is said” during the hearings currently organized in the National Assembly.
Several deputies had denounced the attitude of the leaders of Orpea during their hearing by the Social Affairs Committee on February 2, 2022. Philippe Charrier, the group’s CEO, had forcefully defended Orpea and qualified the accusations of Victor Castanet’s book “of allegations“. He had also promised “apologies if there were any proven cases” of mistreatment in its Ehpad. On February 16, the general manager of Korian, Sophie Boissard, had for her part explained that the “corporate culture“of his group had”nothing to see” with the facts denounced by the book “Les Fossoyeurs”.
The constitution of a commission of inquiry would notably allow the questioning under oath of these leaders: “If you, the national representation, do not take up these issues in a stronger, more coercive way, who will?“, asked Fabien Arakelian. “A choice has been made, which is different“, answered Fadila Khattabi. The president of the social affairs committee highlighted “the double investigation carried out by the government and Minister Brigitte Bourguignon“. A commission of inquiry would have “required a slightly longer installation time which would have hampered the responsiveness of our work“, also explained the deputy, who defended the “sustained, serious work, follow-up” undertaken by his commission. But if he “we have to go further, we will go further“, she promised.