Waiting list for subsidised elderly homes may last 50 years
As thousands queue for subsidised homes, the 1,700 places pledged by chief executive in his policy address are likely to have little impact
Clearing the waiting list for government-subsidised homes for the elderly could take up to 50 years if provision increases at the pace outlined in the chief executive's policy address.
While Leung Chun-ying pledged on Wednesday to add more than 1,700 subsidised places by 2014-15, there were 28,692 people on the waiting list last month.
With an average of about 570 new places being rolled out each year that would mean, in theory, it would take 50 years to clear the queue. But an accurate figure is impossible; as places become available, more people are added to the list and many die waiting.
The queue for subsidised care homes has grown 22 per cent from 23,553 in 2007.
Labour and Welfare Secretary Matthew Cheung Kin-chung said yesterday he wanted to be able to promise a target waiting time, but added: "The difficulty lies not only with the government, but the circumstances. When applying for care homes, the elderly can choose a district. Some even indicate which home they prefer, while some name a preferred religious background."
The Post also found that 95 per cent of the 1,714 expected new subsidised places announced by Leung had been pledged by his predecessor, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.
Leung said on Wednesday the government would explore incorporating homes for the elderly into redevelopment projects and converting vacant buildings.
Of 11 proposed sites for new homes, five are designated for redevelopment by the government or the Urban Renewal Authority.
But honorary chairwoman of the Elderly Services Association Grace Li Fai said he was "playing with the figures". His proposal would not solve the "pressing shortage" of subsidised places as the 11 sites would take a decade to be developed, even if approved.
"Over 20,000 elderly people have been waiting for care homes, and some 6,000 of them died during their wait each year. How will the several hundred extra places meet their demand?" She said it would be quicker to push up supply by converting vacant government shopping malls or car park buildings into subsidised elderly homes.
Chan Pui-yi, deputy chief executive of the Hong Kong Christian Service, said the ground floors of new public housing blocks should be set aside for care homes.
URA chairman Barry Cheung Chun-yuen urged the government to exempt old people's homes from the gross floor area calculations of private flat sites as an incentive to developers.
Lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung criticised Leung's administration for not requiring private developers to set aside a certain amount of space for homes for the elderly and said his efforts to increase supply lacked clear direction.