Report 'seeks to slash spending on elderly'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 September, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 September, 1998, 12:00am

The Government was accused of making use of a consultancy report's findings to cut the budget for elderly care.

Lee Cheuk-yan of The Frontier called the report on the elderly a tool to slash spending on care during the economic downturn.

The as-yet-unpublished report recommended that users who could afford it should pay for their services, and also called for the introduction of means-testing for the families of the elderly.

'The report is packaged as a study to identify the needs of the elderly. But its aim is to save money instead,' Mr Lee said at the social welfare panel.

He said the Government intended to offset the shortfall of $4.6 billion that would arise if suggestions on elderly care put forward in Tung Chee-hwa's policy address were implemented.

'The Government gave us a cheque but it now finds itself unable to pay the bill. So it wants to rewrite the cheque again,' he said.

Ho Wing-him, Deputy Secretary for Health and Welfare, rejected the criticism, saying the Government was seeking to improve services for the elderly.

'It is completely unacceptable to negate our work by casting doubt on our aim,' he said. 'We have already made a lot of commitments. I can't see why legislators say we are [looking] to save money.' But Mr Ho admitted the administration needed to sort out the funding because of the economic climate.

'In such an economic situation, we can't live beyond our means. It's time for us to study how we can bear the cost,' he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Ho said the bureau was working with the Planning, Environment and Lands Bureau to provide guidelines for owners of private premises on operating residential care homes for the elderly.

There are two impending court cases in which owners of private premises are challenging the deeds of mutual covenant in order to bar the operation of homes for the elderly.

Mr Ho said the Government did not want to see private old people's homes closed.

'We can retain private homes simply by amending the deeds of mutual covenant of current premises. But we don't want to do that. It's a drastic change,' he said.