Health costs weigh heavy on elderly: survey

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 March, 2001, 12:00am

Updated at 4.22pm:
Elderly people on social security are suffering in order to pay for medical costs, a three month-long survey by Caritas revealed on Thursday.

The charity found that the majority of senior citizens on social security, close to 84 per cent, suffered from bad health and had to make regular visits to the doctor.

''As a result 60 per cent of them eat little, seldom leave the house and have to borrow money from friends and family to live,'' said Team leader of the Luen Yeuk Tau Community Development project, Chan Kwok Ming.

Of those who suffered from bad health, the majority lived in public housing flats or squats. Seventy-five per cent preferred private doctors and Chinese herbalists to the free public health system, with over 33 per cent of them paying for visits once a month - costing an average of $140 per consultation.

''In other words if they were to make a paid visit to the clinic once a week, 22 per cent of their social assistance would be used up,'' Mr Chan explained.

Mr Chan said that with over 60 per cent of the elderly purchasing prescription drugs worth about $70 monthly in addition to going to private doctors, medical expenses posed a heavy burden.

The survey interviewed 146 people, 85 per cent of whom were single, between September and December.