Ehpad directors can always limit visits, to the chagrin of families

“While the population has the impression that the health crisis is behind it, everything has not returned to normal in nursing homes. » Friday March 10, Patrick Couratin, president of the association Aging together as citizens (Avec), discovered with surprise the updated protocol of the Ministry of Health on the management of Covid-19 in nursing homes.

This circular indicates, among other things, that the heads of establishments retain the possibility of making the mask compulsory and of reducing visits in the event of infection of a resident with Covid-19, or other respiratory pathologies. This is enough to disappoint old age associations such as Avec or the Ehpad Family Collective, which denounce the stigmatization of residents.

A number of establishments difficult to quantify

“At Christmas, the ministry’s instructions were clear: it encouraged no longer to confine and to maintain visits no matter what, while maintaining the necessary protective measures”, is surprised Sabrina Deliry, co-founder of the Circle of caregivers in nursing homes. For the associations, the restrictions were adapted during the first confinement to protect the elderly, but the protocol, updated in August 2021, has not evolved enough since.

It is difficult to quantify the number of establishments that have limited visits since the start of the pandemic, but, according to Patrick Couratin, “The Ehpad Familles 42 Collective receives complaints several times a week, which suggests that around a hundred establishments out of the 7,000 Ehpad in France continue to limit visits to their structures”. A number already too high for the president of the association.

“It is the director who has the hand”

“Ultimately, it is the director who has the upper hand. Whatever the instructions of the ministry, it can decide to restrict visits, or even to suspend them”, abounds Sabrina Deliry. An absurdity in the eyes of this resident’s daughter, “Since there is almost no more Covid. The problem is that with the epidemic some have taken the fold of closures, and encourage families to postpone their visits to the slightest case of flu or gastro”.

Patrick Couratin points out the disempowerment of the State, which leaves the hand to the directors. For the former caregiver in Ehpad, the little evolution of these protocols is contradictory. “We are asked that nursing homes be a place to live, but how can they be without the visit of relatives? »

“Preserving the freedom of residents”

For its part, the Ministry of Health and Prevention recalls, in the isolation instructions for establishments, the importance of wearing a mask, which “helps to ensure personal protection by limiting the risk of infection and development of a serious form of respiratory disease”. These instructions also insist on the fact that visits and outings do not “no longer subject to specific recommendations” on their part, but maintain the possibility for directors to take management measures “as soon as there is one or more cases of Covid-19, influenza or other viruses responsible for an acute respiratory infection among residents or professionals”.

Sabrina Deliry deplores this “police law”. For Patrick Couratin, who also hoped for a greater update of the protocol, the decisions of the directors should – to be justified – be subject to validation by “the council of social life”. This body elected by the residents and families of the establishment would then allow “to preserve the freedom of the residents”.