Public opinion in Romania is shocked by a scandal surrounding the mistreatment and abuse of hundreds of elderly people in residences managed by an Orthodox Christian association with close ties to the political power of the Balkan country.
Last week, a hundred elderly people were rescued from three residences where they were living poorly near Bucharest, with hardly any food and subjected to violent, humiliating treatment.
The Romanian president, Klaus Iohannis, described what happened as a “national shame” and demanded from the political class “the courage to take action.”
The Romanian press talks about “terror asylums”, run by the association “Saint Gabriel the Brave”, founded by two people close to the Minister of Families and former mayor of Bucharest, the socialist Gabriela Firea.
Total, 26 people were arrested for the casehalf of them are still in preventive detention or under house arrest.
The scandal has an additional political aspect, since Firea, who is still in office, intends to run for mayor of the capital again in 2024, by far the largest city in the country.
After a search this Monday of half a thousand residences throughout Romania, the authorities decided close four centers permanentlywhile another 22 were temporarily suspended.
The Romanian prime minister, the socialist Marcel Ciolacu, declared after the searches, which confirmed the abuses, “not having any empathy with those who facilitated this horror.”
IN SUBHUMAN CONDITIONS
In nursing homes, with few workers and many residents, the elderly spent their days stretched out on bunk beds, in poor hygiene conditionswithout sheets and with dirty mattresses of urine and feces.
In videos leaked to the local press, elderly and vulnerable people are seen with signs of physical abuse, some were even tied to their beds.
Several witnesses claimed that strong sleeping pills were administered to the elderly to make them sleep fifteen hours a day.
There are allegations that the victims they didn’t get enough foodwhich also used to be in poor condition.
According to the Romanian press, some young people with disabilities were also housed in these asylums.
The closed centers, privately managed but financed with public funds, operated through “San Gabriel el Valiente”, founded by an adviser and by a former driver of the current Minister of Families.
The suspects founded associations for the care of the elderly in order to attract public funds, despite not having any experience in this type of care for the elderly.
In addition, they seized the pensions of the elderly, encouraged them to sell their homes to finance their stay in nursing homes and falsified health certificates to later send them to public centers for the disabled, for which they received a separate subsidy.
The conditions were so bad that some of the residents were dedicated to asking for help and food from people who passed through the garden of one of the centers, reports the Romanian press.
Local authorities estimate that those responsible for the centers diverted between November 2021 and June 2023 close to a million euros of public funds.
For now, only the minister’s former driver has been arrested, while the adviser has been temporarily suspended from office.
Six senior officials were dismissed due to the scandal, including the secretary and vice-secretary of the public body for the protection of the rights of people with disabilities (ANPDP).
According to documents to which the G4Media news portal had access, ANPDP inspectors had already searched one of the now-closed centers in June 2022, without taking any type of action.
The Minister of Health, the socialist Alexandru Rafila, said that despite the searches carried out, he was not aware of the conditions in these nursing homes, since many inspectors “look more at the papers than at the centers”, that is, they prioritize the bureaucracy over the state of the elderly