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LCQ9: Inspections on private residential care homes for the elderly

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Sing-chi and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (May 5):


     It has been reported recently that problems have been found in the management of some private residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs), some of which have resorted to "on-the-run shifts" or "professional on-the-run staff" to pretend that they have sufficient manpower, while some others have provided their residents with vegetarian diets which cost only two to three dollars per meal per person in order to cut their catering expenditure.  In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of regular inspections and surprise inspections conducted by the authorities on private RCHEs last year;

(b) of the criteria adopted by the authorities for arranging surprise inspections; and

(c) whether during inspections on private RCHEs in the past three years, the authorities had uncovered cases of RCHEs resorting to "on-the-run shifts" or "professional on-the-run staff" to pretend that they had sufficient manpower; if so, how the authorities followed up such cases, whether they had instituted prosecutions, and of the number of prosecutions instituted?



(a) In the past year, the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for the Elderly (LORCHE) of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) had conducted a total of about 4 600 inspections on private RCHEs over the territory, i.e. about eight inspections for each RCHE on average.  Except in special circumstances (e.g. when inspecting the premises for new applications for RCHE licences, the inspectors will make appointment with the operators in advance to ensure that the latter's staff will be available on site to assist in the inspection), LORCHE will not notify the concerned RCHEs in advance of the inspections.

(b) To ensure that RCHEs comply with the licensing requirements, LORCHE will adjust the frequency of inspections based on the risk level of individual RCHEs.  Apart from inspections conducted during office hours, surprise inspections will also be carried out during early morning, night time or even holidays.  Upon receipt of complaints, LORCHE will also carry out surprise inspections on the concerned RCHEs immediately.  For RCHEs that have violated the regulations before, or have poor track records, LORCHE will step up its inspection efforts to closely monitor their service performance.

(c) The inspections are highly comprehensive, covering aspects such as drug management, personal care services, infection control, handling of accidents, environmental hygiene, meals and staffing, etc.  On staffing, LORCHE's social work inspectors will not only count the number of staff on duty and verify their identity cards, but also check their employment contracts, shift rosters, attendance records and outside work records, etc.  The inspectors will also interview individual staff.  For staff who are on casual leave, vacation leave or sick leave, RCHEs are required to arrange other staff to temporarily undertake their duties so as to ensure compliance with the minimum staffing requirements as stipulated in Schedule 1 of the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Regulation at all times.  The RCHE operators are required to keep all the relevant documentary evidence for inspection.  Given the stringent procedures in verifying staff identity during inspections, it is unlikely that RCHEs can arrange "on-the-run staff" to impersonate their staff.

     If RCHEs are found to have insufficient staff during inspections, the inspectors will, depending on the nature and severity of non-compliance, issue advice or warning to the RCHEs concerned and closely follow up the cases so as to ensure that the RCHEs will make improvements accordingly.  Should serious non-compliances persist, SWD will consider taking prosecution action.  In the past three years, SWD successfully prosecuted six private RCHEs which failed to meet the minimum staffing requirements.

     The question also touches on the meal arrangements in private RCHEs.  In this regard, the social work inspectors of LORCHE will check the menus prepared by the RCHEs for their residents, observe the food preparation process, examine the quantity and quality of food, and also collect feedback from the residents during inspections so as to conduct a comprehensive assessment on the meals provided in the RCHEs.  During the inspections conducted last year, the meals provided in most RCHEs were found to have complied with the requirements as set out in the relevant guidelines in the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons).

Ends/Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Issued at HKT 11:57


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