Job fears amid elderly care revamp

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 15 March, 2005, 12:00am

Workers could be laid off and the quality of care could drop because of changes being planned for 75 seniors' homes, legislators and workers' representatives said yesterday.

The government plans to slash the number of beds at the 75 homes from 10,700 to 6,200 and switch them from seniors capable of looking after themselves to seniors who need personal and medical attention.

Speaking at a Legco panel meeting on welfare services, assistant director of Social Welfare Kathy Ng Ma Kam-han said the government had already developed an elderly housing programme for those who could look after themselves.

'Elderly who are living in their own homes can receive home-based and centre-based community care services instead of living in self-care hostels,' Mrs Ng said.

More than 60 per cent of the elderly population is now living in public housing.

Legislators and representatives of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service generally agreed there was a need for the change, but worried that workers could be laid off and service quality would fall.

Unionist legislator Lee Cheuk-yan urged the government to include representatives from the elderly homes workers' union in a taskforce set up by the Social Welfare Department last year to work on the proposal.

Tse Woon-sung, executive member of the Community Care and Nursing Home Workers General Union, said: 'Only the Council of Social Services is represented in the group. Workers are not consulted about the plan at all. A smooth transition will not be achieved unless comprehensive arrangement is made for the workers.'

She said workers were already overloaded as older people required a lot of personal care.

'Some elderly homes do not change bed sheets for over a month, and some do not have nurses on duty during holidays,' Ms Tse said.

'Our workload will be heavier after the change as all elderly require personal and medical care. But the government does not consult us about manpower arrangements at all.'

Deputy Secretary for Health, Welfare and Food Selina Yan said training courses would be offered to workers in elderly homes as the demand for personal care workers and registered nurses increased.

But it is not known when the proposal will be implemented as it is still being considered.

New applications for admission to self-care hostels and homes for the aged ceased in 2003. 'The conversion of self-care places will help allocate resources to those who are incapable of taking care of themselves,' Mrs Ng said.

Miss Yan also said the department had begun conducting two studies on future demand for elderly services in order to formulate a long-term social welfare plan for the ageing population.

The studies are expected to be completed this year.