One queue for elderly to determine care needs
Applications for various residential care services for the elderly will be centralised into a single queue to improve screening, according to the Director of Social Welfare, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor.
The move comes after the Audit Commission questioned the cost effectiveness of providing different services under a wide range of schemes.
At a Legco public accounts committee hearing yesterday, Mrs Lam conceded most of the 6,000-plus applicants for homes for the aged were not in genuine need.
An analysis of the 300 new cases in March found 23 per cent only applied in case they needed help later. Mrs Lam said some only required help around the house or meals provided.
She said a single queue for all applicants would be provided so they would be screened to find out what services they needed.
The long-term goal would be to provide a one-stop service in which the elderly could get a wide range of care services according to their needs all in one home.
On the suggestion of introducing a means test to screen out wealthy applicants, Mrs Lam said this might not necessarily mean the better off would lose help.
She said such vetting could result in some people paying more for the same service, but there was no immediate plan to implement a means test.
The Audit Commission also challenged the Hospital Authority's infirmary services for the elderly.
It found that only 1,134 beds were currently available - less than two for every 1,000 people aged 65 or above - well below the target of five beds for every 1,000 laid down years ago. Only 347 people were given a place last year after waiting for an average of almost three years. A total of 1,646 elderly people died while waiting and 546 withdrew, the Legco Public Accounts Committee heard.
Emily Lau Wai-hing, of The Frontier, said: 'After so many years the target still cannot be achieved. It's a dereliction of duties. Hong Kong is such a wealthy place.
'It's unacceptable to see thousands of old people dying while on the queue.'
Secretary for Health and Welfare Dr Yeoh Eng-kiong said the number of beds had almost doubled over the past six years.
'People waiting for infirmary services are generally vulnerable. It's not unusual if they pass away,' he said.