LCQ20: Assistance to 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 (June 8):


     Some representatives of the elderly care homes industry have pointed out that the operation of private residential care homes for the elderly ("private RCHEs") faces various difficulties, and the support provided by the Government is not sufficient. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:

(a) given that private RCHEs may have to pay higher labour cost in hiring employees upon the implementation of the statutory minimum wage legislation, and that the soaring rentals and food prices at present further increase the operating costs of private RCHEs, whether the authorities have received requests for assistance from private RCHEs which encountered difficulties in their operation under such circumstances; of the details about the initiatives taken by the authorities to understand the operating difficulties of private RCHEs; whether the authorities have any proactive measure to help private RCHEs ride out the difficulties; and how the authorities assist the affected elders when private RCHEs cannot continue to operate and have to close down;

(b) of the number of elderly Comprehensive Social Security Assistance ("CSSA") recipients who are at present residing in private RCHEs, with a breakdown of the respective numbers by district, as well as the respective percentages of these figures in the total number of residents of the care homes concerned; and

(c) as the Subcommittee on Elderly Services of this Council has pointed out that most elderly people who reside in private RCHEs receive CSSA, and that private RCHEs charge a monthly fee for the places equivalent to the CSSA payment level, which is far below the monthly subsidy for subvented places, and therefore they are not able to meet the service standards of subvented homes, whether the authorities know the amount of shortfall for which private RCHEs have to make up in their operating expenses for these places in order to meet the service standards of subvented homes required by the Social welfare Department; whether the authorities have received requests for assistance from private RCHEs, indicating that they have encountered operating difficulties in this regard; if so, how the authorities will provide assistance; and whether they have received any complaint about elderly CSSA recipients encountering difficulties in applying for places in private RCHEs?



     My reply to the question raised by the Hon Wong Sing-chi is as follows:

(a) As at March 31, 2011, there were altogether 585 private residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) in Hong Kong. They operate on a commercial basis, and may choose to commence or close their business for various reasons. The Government has to respect the commercial decisions made by the operators. Nevertheless, we have been closely monitoring the operating conditions of the sector. We note that on average, about 15 private RCHEs closed down per year between April 2008 and March 2011, while 16 RCHEs commenced operation per year in the same period; and from January 2011 until now, four private RCHEs (providing 290 places) have closed down or decided to close down their business, whereas nine private RCHEs (providing 892 places) have commenced operation. The above statistics indicate that the private market is still active.  

     In accordance with the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Regulation (Cap 459A) and the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons), if an RCHE operator intends to close the RCHE, he/she should inform the Social Welfare Department (SWD), the residents and their families in advance and provide the residents with a decanting plan. Affected RCHE residents may opt for decantation to another RCHE run by the same operator (if applicable), or another RCHE arranged or proposed by the operator, or another RCHE of their own choice. Past experience indicates that most residents could transfer to other RCHEs smoothly. If a closing private RCHE fails to relocate its elderly residents, SWD will proactively intervene, assist the elderly residents and follow up their welfare plans.

     As for the private RCHEs participating in the Enhanced Bought Place Scheme (EBPS), in determining the purchase prices, SWD has fully taken into account the operating expenditure of the RCHEs (including items such as emoluments, rentals, inflation, etc) and will review and adjust the amount of government subsidies annually according to the established mechanism. In accordance with this mechanism, SWD will raise the amount of government subsidies per place by 3.1% in 2011-12. In addition, SWD has maintained close contact with RCHEs participating in EBPS. It has set up a working group to understand more about their operating conditions, and explore practicable and feasible measures to improve EBPS as well as the operating environment and service quality of the RCHEs concerned. Members of the working group include representatives of the sector, the Department of Health, Hospital Authority and SWD, academics and independent members of the community.

(b) The Comprehensive Social Security Assistance (CSSA) Scheme seeks to provide assistance to families which could not support themselves financially to meet their basic needs. Elderly CSSA recipients who need residential care services can opt to take the Standardised Care Need Assessment administered by SWD and apply for admission into subsidised RCHEs, or reside in private RCHEs. By the end of April 2011, a total of 28 660 CSSA recipients aged 60 or above were living in private RCHEs. They constituted 74% of all the elders residing in private RCHEs in Hong Kong (ie 38 983 elders). A breakdown by district is set out below :

DistrictĦeNoteĦf     No. of CSSA recipients aged
                     60 or above who live in
                     private RCHEs

Central and Western  1 135
Eastern              2 154
Islands                255
Kowloon City         2 982
Kwai Tsing           2 283
Kwun Tong            1 787
North                1 743
Sai Kung               231
Sha Tin              1 062
Sham Shui Po         2 455
Southern             1 082
Tai Po               1 483
Tsuen Wan            1 596
Tuen Mun             2 129
Wan Chai               425
Wong Tai Sin         1 337
Yau Tsim Mong        1 584
Yuen Long            2 937
Total               28 660

Note:The boundaries of the geographical districts of SWD are broadly similar to those of the District Councils.

(c) The Government has not imposed any restriction on the service targets and fee levels of private RCHEs, except for subsidised places under the EBPS; and has no information on the operating cost or profit of these RCHEs. The operating conditions of individual private RCHEs should be a matter for the respective operators. SWD has not received any complaint from elders claiming that they have encountered difficulties in applying for the above private RCHE places.

Ends/Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Issued at HKT 11:31