France probes 'revolting' claims of rapacious care homes

France’s government is pledging to investigate what it called “absolutely revolting” allegations that a world leader in care for older adults has been putting profit before quality, rationing food and other items for nursing home residents

PARIS -- France’s government pledged Wednesday to investigate what it called “absolutely revolting” allegations that a world leader in care for older adults has been putting profit before quality, rationing food and other items for nursing home residents.

Orpea, with more than 1,100 care homes in 23 countries, has vigorously denied the accusations of shoddy and rapacious care which have battered its stock-market value in Paris this week and are contained in an investigative journalist’s book published Wednesday.

Government spokesman Gabriel Attal described the alleged practices described in the book as “absolutely revolting” and said “reading such things leaves a knot in the stomach.”

“Our elders deserve respect,” he said. “Tolerating such schemes in our country is out of the question.”

COVID-19 infections devastated older generations before vaccinations curbed death rates in nursing homes and helped restore freedom for elderly residents who were often kept isolated in what some described as prison-like conditions. The pandemic has claimed nearly 130,000 lives in France, with 27,400 dying in care homes.

Orpea, in a statement, contested the book’s allegations as lies. It noted that France’s care-home sector is subject to “strict regulation and regular controls by public authorities.”

Among those quoted in the book was a former Orpea nursing home employee who alleged that sanitary protections for residents were rationed to three a day in the care unit with a “terrible smell of piss” where she worked.

The government’s minister for elderly care, Brigitte Bourguignon, said she wants to determine whether the allegations are limited in scope to just one care home or reveal “a system organized by Orpea.”

“Trimming on quality out of concern for profitability would be very harmful,” she tweeted.