Lawmakers plead for more elderly care home places
Lawmakers yesterday made a cross-party plea for the government to provide more residential-care services for elderly couples.
Their call came at a meeting of the Legislative Council's welfare services panel where officials were questioned about whether subsidised residential-care services take into account the needs of people who apply for them as a couple but have different care needs.
The issue was debated after the South China Morning Post last month reported the plight of an elderly couple who faced the prospect of being separated by the restrictions on access to care homes.
The 100-year-old husband was offered a place in a regular care home after a two-year wait. But his 95-year-old wife became ineligible due to her worsening health, and faces a longer wait for a room in a nursing home.
The couple have the choice of waiting for a unit for both of them at one of the 17 homes offering regular as well as nursing-care spaces.
Yesterday Principal Assistant Secretary for Labour and Welfare Angelina Cheung Fung Wing-ping said she could not state the average waiting time for couples seeking a place. But she said the wait for couples with different care needs was longer than for those with the same needs.
In special cases, such as those who could not take care of themselves and had no family members to help, social workers could help them apply to move higher up the queue.
In January, about 27,800 elderly were on the waiting list for subsidised home care. Of that number, 520 had applied as couples, according to a document the Social Welfare Department provided to the panel.
The government plans to build eight new homes with 863 residential places. Lawmakers Leung Kwok-hung and panel chairman Peter Cheung Kwok-che urged the government to include more combined service facilities for elderly couples who need different levels of care.
Also discussed at the meeting was a scheme that is expected to be launched before the middle of next year to provide the old-age allowance for eligible elderly Hongkongers who choose to live in Guangdong.
About 30,000 applications are expected to be received at the launch, including more than 20,000 from Hong Kong people who have already moved to Guangdong, said Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung. Application criteria for the HK$13,000-a-year allowance, paid monthly, would be similar to the local old-age allowance.
Hong Kong residents aged 70 and above receive the allowance by right, while those aged 65 to 69 are subject to a means test.
The proportion of women, in 2010, aged 65 or more. The figure for men was 6 per cent. Women outnumber men and also live longer