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LCQ6:Subsidised places in residential care homes for the elderly

     Following is a question by the Hon Wong Yuk-man and a reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (January 26):


     There have been comments that the problem of shortfall in the supply of Subsidised places in the nursing homes ("NH") and care-and-attention ("C&A") homes for the elderly has been worsening since the Chief Executive ("CE") took office in 2005, and although quite a number of elderly people have dedicated their whole life to Hong Kong, they can neither share the fruits of prosperity nor lead a dignified and comfortable retirement life. Since CE took office in 2005, the number of elderly people who died while waiting for Subsidised NH places increased sharply from 1 339 in 2005 to 1 822 in 2009, representing an increase of more than 36% over a period of five years. In addition, the number of elderly people who died while waiting for Subsidised C&A places also increased sharply from 2 053 in 2005 to 2 716 in 2009, representing an increase of more than 32% over a period of five years. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) of the respective numbers of elderly people who died while waiting for Subsidised NH places and C&A places in 2010;

(b) whether the Government has assessed the reasons for the upsurge in the number of elderly people who died while waiting for Subsidised NH places and C&A places; if it has, of the reasons; if not, whether it will conduct an assessment; and

(c) whether the Government has assessed the effectiveness of the measures to ameliorate the problem of acute shortfall of Subsidised places in residential care homes for the elderly; if the assessment outcome is in the affirmative, when the number of elderly people who die while waiting will decline; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, the principal officials who shall be held responsible under the accountability system headed by CE?


     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Wong Yuk-man is as follows:

(a) In 2010, the numbers of elders who passed away while waiting for subsidised nursing home (NH) places and care-and-attention (C&A) places were 1 823 and 2 971 respectively.

(b) and (c) With the rapidly increasing elderly population in Hong Kong, society's overall demand for subsidised residential care places for the elderly has been on the rise, and the number of people waiting for such places has been increasing correspondingly. With a view to shortening the waiting time as far as possible, the Government has been allocating additional resources and making the best endeavour to identify suitable sites for construction of elderly homes in recent years to increase the provision of subsidised residential care places.

     We have been closely monitoring the waiting situation of various types of subsidised residential care places and deploying resources accordingly in order to address specific problems. For example, we understand that the waiting time for subsidised NH places is rather long. Therefore, we have taken the initiative to introduce strategic measures on two fronts to support frail elders waiting for NH places.

     Firstly, we have adopted a novel approach to increasing the supply of subsidised NH places. This entails increasing the proportion of NH places in existing contract elderly homes from an average of 50% to 90%, purchasing vacant NH places from self-financing elderly homes, and making full use of the space in existing subvented homes to provide more long-term care places offering a continuum of care. Through the above multi-pronged initiatives, 1 095 additional NH places will come on stream from this financial year to 2013-14, representing 50% of the existing provision of NH places (2 191 places).

     Secondly, we will provide better support for elders on the waiting list. The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has obtained funding of $55 million from the Lotteries Fund to launch the Pilot Scheme on Home Care Services for Frail Elders, which will provide "tailor-made" home care services for frail elders living at home while waiting for NH places. SWD has selected three non-government organisations as operators and the new service will be formally rolled out in March this year.

     Regarding subsidised C&A places, our strategy is to increase the provision of places through the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme (EBPS). In his Policy Address last October, the Chief Executive indicated that he would increase the number of bought places, particularly the higher-quality ones (ie EA1 places). According to statistics as at the end of last year, the average waiting time for a bought place in an EBPS home was about eight months. We believe that the new round of purchase exercise under EBPS will help to shorten the waiting time and encourage private homes to further enhance their service quality.

     We believe that this series of initiatives will help to alleviate the waiting situation. In future, the Government will continue to allocate resources to strengthen residential care services for frail elders. However, I must emphasise that elderly home is not the only choice, and often not the best one. Most elders prefer to age at home. This is also the Government's policy objective and the global trend. Hence, we are providing various types of assistance and services for elders waiting for residential care places.

     It is noteworthy that as at the end of December 2010, among the some 26 000 elders waiting for various types of subsidised residential care places, more than 14,000 (ie 54%) were receiving different kinds of government subsidies or services, including:

-over 11 000 elders receiving Comprehensive Social Security Assistance;
-over 3 000 elders using subsidised community care services; and
-about 300 elders using subsidised residential care services of a lower care level.

     We will continue to enhance community care services for the elderly. The Chief Executive has announced in the Policy Address that the number of subsidised community care service places would be substantially increased to provide support for elders to age at home.

     In recent years, the Government has also introduced several new initiatives to further enhance the support for elders who age at home. These include the Integrated Discharge Support Programme for the Elderly, which was launched in 2008 and aims to provide "one-stop" services for elders discharged from hospitals and also for their carers through the provision of pre-discharge planning and post-discharge home care services. As the programme has been well received, we will extend its service coverage in phases from the current three districts to all 18 districts in the territory. The number of elders served will also increase from about 8 000 a year at present to 33 000. Separately, we have launched in 2008 the Home Environment Improvement Scheme for the Elderly which assists elders who lack the financial means to improve their home conditions. Under the scheme, we have provided home environment improvement work services or purchased fittings for 15 000 elderly households. It is expected that a total of 40 000 elderly households will benefit from the scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Issued at HKT 15:17


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