La Croix: According to an initial assessment established on April 2 of the impact of the coronavirus in retirement homes, at least 884 elderly people have died and 14,638 cases of Covid are “Confirmed or possible”. What do these figures say about reality in Ehpad?
Pascal Champvert : There is no reason to doubt the reliability of the figures presented by the authorities, but the director general of health took care to specify on Thursday evening that these estimates will have to be consolidated in the coming days. 884 dead is a tragedy for the families and staff who accompany the elderly.
We are facing a serious crisis, a war to use the words of the President of the Republic. However in a war situation, you must be particularly careful to use the right words. To say, as President Bolsonaro did, that it is a “gripette” is irresponsible. But when I hear about “tsunami”, “carnage” in the Ehpad here, I say that people are frightened and that it does not help to fight against the enemy.
There are 10,000 establishments in France, including 7,500 nursing homes, which accommodate around 700,000 elderly people. So we must insist that if the virus has killed 884 too many people, 99.9% of the residents are alive.
Figures show that in the Grand Est, there were 570 deaths in the Ehpad for a total of 1585 deaths in the region.
P. C.: This confirms what we have known for weeks, that the elderly are the first victims of this epidemic. Residents are exposed as are seniors living at home. On this point, it will also be necessary to assess the number of people who died without having been hospitalized. But again, let’s not circulate a fear that is irrelevant to the real situation.
The elderly people with whom I chat in my establishments are often the most serene. They tell me that this war is unfair because we don’t know who is going to take it away, because the enemy is invisible. But many of them have known other wars, some of them bombing. And they tell me, “It was something else”.
The count of infected people seems random and it is not always known what people really died from.
P. C.: When there is a case of death from the coronavirus in an establishment, it can happen that other deaths are attributed to the epidemic without really having proof. The only solution would be to carry out tests, but we still miss them terribly. We also lack gowns, masks and psychologists.
Will you last?
P. C.: Yes, we will hold because the staff in establishments such as those who work at home are there, they face up and it is thanks to them that we will win. But they will continue to hold on if they know that after the storm, the authorities will finally provide the additional resources that have been expected for years.
Following the strike movement of 2018, the President of the Republic promised a law on old age. He told us again in his recent speech that the next day will be different. Finally, we must provide the means to take care of the elderly with dignity.
What containment should be put in place to protect residents of Ehpad?
P. C.: Confinement in the establishment is fortunately already the rule. When it has several wings, keeping patients away in part of the buildings can be considered. On the other hand, individual confinement should only be a solution of last resort, as the National Ethics Committee recalled. For reasons of economy, in recent years we have reduced private spaces in nursing homes. Can you imagine what it means to contain a person in a 20m room2 ? It’s not human.