Hostels for elderly a disgrace, say unions

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 August, 1999, 12:00am

Elderly people are being dumped in substandard hostels where they live a humiliating life, it was claimed yesterday.

Some were forced to wait naked to take baths, because the hostels they were in did not have adequate facilities or enough staff, it was alleged, while others were tied to their beds for the day.

The allegations were made when the Confederation of Trade Unions which said it discovered the 'humiliating conditions' after it arranged for personal care worker trainees to work at private elderly homes.

More than 100 trainees had been placed for one-day internships at about 20 elderly hostels, 11 of which were ill-treating inmates, said the confederation's organising secretary, Tam Chun-yin.

He said the trainees had witnessed naked men and women waiting outside the bathroom.

'This was to save time. The hostels did not have enough manpower and bathrooms. So the elderly had their clothes taken off while waiting to be bathed.

'Some were given a thin cloth to cover the lower part of their bodies, but some just waited in the nude. This is unacceptable and very humiliating,' he said.

Some hostels were found without proper alarm bells and no handrails in corridors, while in others elderly people were tied to their beds.

A trainee who called himself Ben said he would rather stay jobless than work at such places.

'How can I work there? The situation is so bad. One employee has to look after 30 elderly,' he said.

The confederation urged the Government to conduct surprise checks at homes for the elderly.

Cheng Ching-fat, chairman of the Personal Care Workers and Home Helpers Association, said some hostels were offering substandard services because of shortage of staff.

He urged the Government to speed up laws against unscrupulous operators to better protect elderly.

About 300 private homes for the elderly remain unlicensed. They are being given a grace period to upgrade their facilities.

The Kowloon Kam Wah Home for the Aged in Cambridge Road, Kowloon Tong, is one of the hostels named by the confederation.

The person-in-charge, Yu Wai-lan, denied the allegations. She said they asked people to queue for baths, but said they were dressed.

The confederation said it would submit information about the hostels to the Government for investigation.