Nursing home checks failing miserably

Staff shortages and vague legislation are taking a toll on standards at units for the elderly

Nursing home checks failing miserably

At a time when demographic projections show that Greece’s population is aging, the situation regarding inspections of nursing homes remains a senior source of concern. 

A case in point was the plight of eight seniors with no relatives staying at such a facility in Korydallos in southwestern Athens. They were found to be living in squalor and miserable conditions before they were recently transferred to another nursing home. The rest of the residents at the home numbered 35 on the day the facility was shut down. They were reportedly transferred to other homes by their relatives.

It had taken two and a half years since the day the Piraeus regional governor had signed off on its closure, in the wake of a damning inspection of the facility. During this time, the seniors there remained malnourished, in dirty conditions, without medical care. Tellingly, some of the residents seem to have disappeared.

According to recent ELSTAT data, 7.3% of the Greek population is over 80 years old and 22.6% of the population is older than 65. There are 139,296 citizens over 90 living in Greece.

The case of the Korydallos unit highlights in the most glaring way just how inadequate the system of operation and inspection is. During the inspection, a person who appeared to be the manager “showed agreements for 800 euros unsigned with unclear details of the contracting persons,” the findings of the audit said. 

Indicatively, when Deputy Labor and Social Affairs Minister Domna Michailidou asked for details of the elderly care units in Greece to schedule vaccinations, she discovered that there was no single register.

The state collected data centrally in order to coordinate the in situ vaccinations, and so it knows that there are 305 licensed commercial and public or religious elderly care units throughout the country. Around half of them are in Attica. 

The framework for the licensing, operation and control of the facilities has until recently been extremely vague. Moreover, inspectors are often targeted by those being inspected.

According to the president of the Panhellenic Association of Care Units, up to 50 irregular units may be operating in Attica. 

The Regional Authority of Attica’s inspections department is chronically understaffed, and although new recruits were approved in 2019, “no new employee has arrived in years,” according to a source at the authority.

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