Win-win result pledged for evicted elderly
Welfare minister tells the old folk whose nursing homes look set to be bulldozed for new town to give him time to come up with solution
Welfare minister Matthew Cheung Kin-chung pledged yesterday that he would exhaust all possible options to come up with a win-win solution before more than 1,000 elderly people were displaced by a proposed new town development in Kwu Tung.
"There are still four years to go … there's room for us to talk with the Development Bureau and come up with a win-win proposal. Please allow us some room and time," Cheung said after meeting residents and managers of the 25 homes in Dills Corner Garden, Kwu Tung, near the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling.
But 78-year-old Jennifer Wang Yuzhen said that did not ease their fears and worries. "It's your task and your duty to take care of us …We could be gone in less than four years' time," she told the minister.
The South China Morning Post reported yesterday that the Development Bureau had increased space for community facilities in the new town, raising the possibility of moving the displaced elderly to a nearby site.
Under an existing plan, the residents would simply be scattered to other homes for the elderly in the city.
Lawmaker Fernando Cheung has also proposed allocating the elderly to a new nursing facility in Tuen Mun, which will be the largest in the city when it is completed by the end of 2017. His idea was welcomed by developer Henderson Land, who donated the site, and the home's future operator Pok Oi Hospital.
The operators of the homes at Dills Corner, most of which are privately run, have suggested redeveloping the homes in the new town but concentrating them into taller buildings on a smaller site to minimise their impact on the future development.
However, the minister warned that some places at the government-funded facility in Tuen Mun would cost more than HK$10,000 per month and could prove unaffordable to many of the displaced residents of Dills Corner Garden, where monthly payments are generally a few thousand dollars.
As for rebuilding the 25 homes, he pointed out that the existing village would be at the heart of the future new town, making the redevelopment proposal less feasible.
Chan Yuen-han, chairwoman of the Legislative Council's welfare services panel, urged the minister to come up with concrete proposals which could be discussed with the residents.
"Hong Kong should treasure this kind of elderly village, where older people are living in a healthier environment and recovering more quickly [compared to those built in the urban areas]. It helps keep down the city's medical costs," she added.
Dills Corner was converted from a former military barracks and opened as a community for old people in 1998. There are 25 two-storey blocks lined up along an avenue, each with a garden.
Wong Cheung-ching, chairman of the Dills Corner homes association, said the government should be taking as much care of the elderly in private homes as those in government facilities.
"They need familiar faces to take care of them. Asking them to adapt to a completely new environment is a torture. I'm afraid they will pass away one by one."