New law to control aged homes
LEGISLATION is being finalised to make licensing of homes for the elderly compulsory.
The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Bill is being drafted and should be endorsed by the Executive Council in time to be introduced into Legco during the next session, due to begin in October.
''We have a place on the Legco calendar and must wait to see how satisfied they are with the proposals in the bill,'' said Alfred Chiu Wing-man, the Assistant Director of Social Welfare.
''I hope it will be in place before June next year.'' But a spokesman for the Hongkong Council of Social Service said Thursday's tragedy illustrated how wrong it would be to have any further delay.
''Some people worry that once there is legislation, many existing private homes may fail to meet the requirements and have to close down, rendering the aged residents homeless,'' he said.
''However, it has been proposed that, once legislation is in place, a grace period would be granted to these homes to improve their conditions.'' He pointed out that the Governor, Chris Patten, promised in his policy speech last year to provide 5,000 additional places in homes for the aged.
''The council believes that the increased subvented places can be offered in time to provide proper care for residents displaced by sub-standard homes after the grace period,'' he said.
The United Democrats' spokesman on welfare, Mak Hoi-wah, suggested that the Social Welfare Department should buy more places in subvented homes and alert the Fire Services Department when they came across homes that were fire hazards.
The council said even though the blaze at the Chi Oi Home in Boundary Street had been classified as arson, reports from the scene spoke of fire extinguishers not being available or not working properly.
Mr Chiu said the new bill specified that any premises where six or more people aged 60 and above were looked after would come under control.
Licensing would be mandatory, statutory and subject to renewals, and premises would be subject to supervision by inspectors from both the Social Welfare Department and the Fire Services Department, which would be empowered to order homes to close.
The bill would also spell out regulations governing the minimum number of staff required, the location and design of homes, and avenues for appeal.