French retirement home group Orpea fires chief amid allegations of patient abuse

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The chief executive of major France-based elderly care home group Orpea was dismissed on Sunday, the company board said in a statement following allegations of patient abuse and hygiene negligence.

Orpea boss Yves Le Masne will leave the company with immediate effect, the statement said, without stating a reason but noting the non-executive chairman would replace him.

The company appointed the current non-executive chairman, Philippe Charrier, as new chief executive officer, it said in a statement.

"Mr. Charrier's mission will be to ensure, under the board’s control, that the best practices are applied throughout the company and to shed full light on the allegations made," the statement added.

Book reveals systematic mistreatment

The homes came under scrutiny following the publication of the book, "Les Fossoyeurs" (The Gravediggers) by independent journalist Victor Castanet, which 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.

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Food and care products in an Orpea home in a wealthy neighbourhood close to Paris were being rationed although the residents paid monthly fees of several thousand euros, the book revealed.

The scandal has drawn widespread condemnation from officials and calls for inspections of the upscale Orpea homes by the authorities.

Orpea has contested the claims as "untruthful, scandalous and injurious". But under massive pressure from both the French government and shareholders, the company said last week it would hire two firms to look into mistreatment claims. These were still in the process of being designated, it said.

It also denied a claim by Castanet that he was offered €15 million ($17 million) by an "intermediary" to drop his investigation.

Orpea operates nearly 1,200 homes worldwide, with around 350 of them in France.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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