The Social Welfare Department is considering a plan to list warnings issued to elderly homes on a new dedicated website, and is working with the Department of Justice to clarify the legal issues, a Legislative Council panel was told on Monday.

As of March, there were 728 regulated elderly homes. Local media had previously reported incidents such as elderly residents being stripped naked in an open area while queuing for a bath, and foreign objects found in an elderly resident’s anus.

Local media had previously reported incidents such as elderly residents being stripped naked in an open area while queuing up for a bath. Photo: Stand News.

Last year, the Social Welfare Department conducted about 5,300 inspections of elderly homes. It has put records of convictions of offences online, but records of warnings issued – several hundred per year – were not made public.

“We hope that through increasing transparency by distributing information on all elderly homes, that the public can participate in monitoring,” said Director of Social Welfare Carol Yip Man-kuen at a Legislative Council’s Panel on Welfare Services meeting on Monday.

Appeals system 

Yip added that the change would also include a mechanism for homes to file appeals against warnings – which could be addressed to a special committee.

According to the suggestion, after the launch of the website, the department will go on to develop a similar dedicated website for the 321 homes for persons with disabilities.

It was among nine measures the department proposed to the Legislative Council to strengthen the inspection and monitoring of elderly homes and homes for persons with disabilities.

Other measures included setting up a dedicated multi-disciplinary inspectorate team, increasing the number of audit inspections, and providing more training to staff members of homes.

To implement the measures, the Social Welfare Department suggested adding a new assistant director position – a time-limited post up till March 2021 – to head a new branch of licensing and regulation, and 39 additional time-limited non-directorate posts.

Fernando Cheung. Photo: cheungchiuhung.org.hk.

The suggested additional posts were questioned by some lawmakers.

Quality of life

Labour Party’s Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said cases like elderly residents being stripped naked were happening every day, and he did not believe the department was willing to take up the responsibility to eradicate the problems.

“I could not see why [the measures] could only be done by increasing manpower,” he said. “You have been doing many of these… in the past you inspect a home seven times [per year] on average, but you still cannot spot the problems.”

“Spending more public funds like this – is it increasing the number bureaucrats, improving the quality of life of these 40 people, or is it really improving the quality of life of our 90,000 elderly people?” Cheung questioned.

Lawmakers at the panel generally agreed to the suggestions, but requested the department answer questions from opposing civil groups before sending the suggestions to the Establishment Subcommittee to consider the posts.

Yip said that she would give written replies.

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Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.