The French government said Thursday that it had summoned the director of a major retirement home operator to appear for questioning over allegations of patient abuse and hygiene negligence at its sites.
Sparked by the publication of “The Gravediggers” this week, the scandal has drawn widespread condemnation from officials and calls for inspections of the upscale Orpea homes by the authorities.
The book, by independent journalist Victor Castanet, cites employees and relatives claiming that residents are at times left for hours with soiled underwear or go days without care as managers seek to maximise profit margins.
Orpea has contested the claims as “untruthful, scandalous and injurious”, but said it had asked two independent firms to evaluate them.
It also denied a claim by Castanet that he was offered €15 million by an “intermediary” to drop his investigation.
Jean-Christophe Romersi, the group’s managing director for France, where it operates around 350 of its nearly 1,200 homes worldwide, was called by the minister in charge of the elderly, Brigitte Bourguignon, to appear on February 1 over the “grave accusations.”
“It will be the chance to hear Orpea’s explanations on several matters, which will be the focus of in-depth inquiries by state authorities,” Bourguignon said in a letter to Romersi.
In particular she asked for details on Orpea’s policies on hygiene and food supplies as well as its “financial practices.”
Orpea has seen in market value cut in half on the Paris stock exchange since Monday, when French daily Le Monde published parts of “The Gravediggers” ahead of its release Wednesday.
It is currently the top seller among books sold by Amazon France.