One of Norway’s biggest private nursing home companies, Adecco Helse, has been rocked by revelations that employees at one of its flagship homes have in some cases worked 84 hours a week without overtime pay, as well as slept in beds in the nursing home’s cellar. The city of Oslo fired them from one of their homes on Tuesday.
Ammerudlunden nursing home in Oslo has won prizes and been praised by pro-privatization politicians as a model example of private nursing home operation. The information on its illegal practices was revealed by Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) last weekend, after reporters and camera crews turned up to confront the management with their findings.
Representatives of Adecco admitted that such practices had been ongoing since the nursing home opened in 2002, and promised to change this. They said that they had believed that the arrangement was legal because the employees themselves had apparently requested to do the work. Bård Kristiansen, the CEO of Adecco Helse, promised to personally ensure that the law would be followed properly from now on, adding that he believed that there was no evidence that the quality of care for patients had been affected by what had taken place.
Adecco’s assurances failed to satisfy city officials, who sacked them from Ammerudlunden on Tuesday. “The systematic violations of labour laws that we have seen here defy both the contract and the law,” said city administrator Stian Berger Røsland to NRK. “We can’t live with such a situation, therefore it’s correct of us to cancel the contract.”
Røsland said that the nursing home operations will be taken over by the city-owned Omsorg Oslo KF. “We will make sure that the employees’ interests are looked after and that there are minimal effects on the residents.”
Meanwhile, Adecco also has admitted to illegally operating the Greverud nursing home in Oppegård, south of Oslo. Some politicians were demanding that its contract be cancelled as well.
Was most popular
In 2006, a poll revealed that Ammerudlunden was the most popular nursing home in Oslo. The privatization of care homes in some Norwegian cities is set to increase over the coming years, something which the secretary-general of Christian care charity Kirkens Bymisjon, Sturla Stålsett, is against, commenting after the current scandal that private operators focus only on financial aspects, which “can lead to reduced quality of service and worse working conditions”.
In Oslo, the Labour Party and Socialist Left Party (Sosialistisk venstreparti, SV), both of whom oppose further privatization, criticized the capital’s council, run by the Conservative Party (Høyre) and the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), who are planning further use of private operators. The Labour Party’s candidate for council leader, Libe Rieber-Mohn, said to NRK that “most likely this is not a unique case, but a result of Høyre and Frp being blind followers of competition in public services.” Frp national leader Siv Jensen criticized many in the Labour Party for only commenting when private nursing homes received criticism, although Labour Party deputy leader Martin Kolberg, whose statements on the subject angered Jensen, claimed in newspaper Dagsavisen that he “has also criticized many times mistakes and shortcomings with public operations.”
Nonetheless, some have defended Adecco and Ammerudlunden. A comment article by Ellen Ugland in newspaper Aftenposten criticized the “tabloid gangster style” of NRK’s reporters in turning up at the home and confronting employees, adding that employment law might be out of step with “reasonable and workable” care.