LCQ15: The use of gerontechnological products by elderly service units
The Government announced in the Policy Address published in October 2017 that it would earmark $1 billion for setting up a fund to subsidise elderly service units to trial use and procure technology products, in order to promote gerontechnology for improving the quality of life of elderly persons and enhancing the quality of elderly services by reducing the burden and pressure of carers and care staff. However, I have learnt that the Social Welfare Department recently issued a warning to a residential care home for the elderly (RCHE), which had used a computerised system for drug dispensing and management, because the way in which drugs were stored and prepared under the system was in violation of the relevant requirements under the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) and the Operational Manual on Drug Management in Residential Care Homes for the Elderly 2007. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the technological, financial and policy support provided by the authorities at present to those elderly service units intending to use or trial use gerontechnological products;
(2) whether the authorities conducted reviews in the past two years to see if the requirements concerning the daily operation of RCHEs under the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance (Cap. 459), the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) and the Operational Manual on Drug Management in Residential Care Homes for the Elderly still suited the current circumstances, including whether such requirements had impeded the use of gerontechnological products by RCHEs; if they did not conduct any review, whether they will conduct such reviews expeditiously; if they did, of the progress and outcome, including whether outdated requirements impeding the use of gerontechnological products by RCHEs had been found; if so, whether the authorities will, prior to amending such requirements, approve the use of the relevant products on a discretionary basis in light of the actual circumstances; and
(3) whether the Innovation and Technology Bureau, the Labour and Welfare Bureau and the Social Welfare Department will set up a joint working group to promote the research, development and application of gerontechnological products suitable for use by local elderly service units, and assist such units in tackling the problems encountered in using such products?
Gerontechnology amalgamates elderly services and innovative technology. It can help improve the lives of elderly persons as well as reduce the burden and stress of carers and care staff. Developing gerontechnology is an important strategy for addressing the ageing society.
In consultation with the Innovation and Technology Bureau (ITB), my reply to the Member's question is as follows:
(1) At present, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) subvented by the Social Welfare Department (SWD) can flexibly use the block grant set aside annually from the Lotteries Fund to procure or replenish furniture and equipment each costing less than $50 000 on the "Reference Furniture and Equipment List" (including gerontechnology products) for all of their subvented service units (including elderly service units). In addition, NGOs can apply to SWD direct for the purchase of furniture and equipment costing more than $50 000 each (including gerontechnology products).
SWD has also set up a $1 billion Social Welfare Development Fund which is being implemented in three phases from 2010-11 to 2018-19. One of the subsidised areas is to upgrade the operational systems of NGOs subvented by SWD. The information technology projects covered mainly include four categories, i.e. service improvements (such as drug management), setting up of websites, human resource management and financial management.
(2) SWD regulates residential care homes for the elderly (RCHEs) by enforcing various requirements under the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance (Cap. 459) (the Ordinance), its subsidiary legislation and the Code of Practice for Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) (the CoP). Among them, the CoP sets out detailed requirements on storage and management of drugs in RCHEs. In addition, RCHEs have to comply with the Operational Manual on Drug Management in RCHEs (the Operational Manual on Drug Management) jointly formulated by the Department of Health (DH), the Hospital Authority (HA) and SWD. The Government encourages RCHEs to use suitable technology products, but any new products or applied technologies must comply with prevailing regulatory requirements (including those on storage and management of drugs).
The Government reviews relevant codes and guidelines from time to time having regard to practical needs in order to ensure the safety of residents. SWD set up a working group in June 2017, with members comprising stakeholders from different sectors, to put forth concrete suggestions for the amendments of the Ordinance, its subsidiary legislation and the CoP. Separately, SWD is currently reviewing, in collaboration with DH and HA, the Operational Manual on Drug Management with a view to providing clearer guidelines for the operators and care staff of RCHEs. SWD will consider introducing guidelines relating to use of technology in revising the CoP and the Operational Manual on Drug Management.
(3) Through different programmes under the Innovation and Technology Fund (ITF), the Innovation and Technology Commission has been subsidising and encouraging universities, local public research institutions (e.g. research and development (R&D) centres) and private companies to conduct R&D projects in various technology areas and conduct trials of their R&D outcomes in the public sector, including projects involving gerontechnology. For instance, the Government provides additional funding for ITF funded R&D projects as well as the incubatees of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation and Cyberport through the Public Sector Trial Scheme for the production of prototypes/samples for trials in the public sector (e.g. elderly service units subvented by SWD). In addition, the Innovation and Technology Fund for Better Living launched by ITB supports eligible organisations in applying innovation and technology to improve people's daily life or address the needs of specific community groups (including elderly persons).
As announced in The Chief Executive's 2017 Policy Address, the Government will earmark $1 billion for a fund to subsidise elderly and rehabilitation service units to try out and procure technology products, so as to improve the quality of life of service users as well as reduce the burden and pressure on care staff and carers. The new fund will be named as the Innovation and Technology Fund for Application in Elderly and Rehabilitation Care. Eligible elderly and rehabilitation service units can apply to the fund for subsidies to procure or rent technology products or try out newly developed technology products. The grant may cover the cost of staff training on how to use the relevant technology products and the cost of warranty/maintenance of the products for a maximum of five years. The Government plans to launch the fund in the fourth quarter of 2018. At the same time, SWD will invite relevant organisations and institutions as working partners to promote advanced technology products among the sector. SWD will also commission the Hong Kong Council of Social Service (HKCSS) to promote to the sector the application of innovative technology in long-term care services. HKCSS will co-ordinate and facilitate experience exchange and partnership among various stakeholders.
The Government will continue to promote the development of gerontechnology through communication and collaboration among the bureaux and departments concerned.
Ends/Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Issued at HKT 18:10
Issued at HKT 18:10