Disabled woman says service change deprives her of help at home

Tina Lau has to get friend to put in catheter after nurse visits cut from daily to three times a week

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 5:15am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 May, 2014, 5:15am

A woman suffering from chronic pain has had to ask a friend to help her insert a urinary catheter after government-subsidised help provided by an NGO abruptly stopped.

Tina Lau Wai-han says she is suffering the effects of inflexibility and poor monitoring of service providers by the Social Welfare Department. And her family and a lawmaker say the case raises questions about the way the government provides services for disabled people.

Lau suffers from an ailment that affects her bladder function. She must have a catheter inserted every day to drain her bladder.

Until last month, she was visited every day by nurses from two non-governmental organisations. But problems began when the Social Welfare Department switched her from its Integrated Homecare Service to its new Homecare Services for the Severely Disabled programme.

The new programme was rolled out citywide after a three-year trial to provide personal care and escort services for disabled people, with the intention of easing the burden for their carers. But Lau was told the care she received from NGO HKSKH Lady MacLehose Centre would end, leaving her without help four days a week.

"I suddenly received that call in late April. And since April 29, I've had the service cut," Lau said. "I can't believe that they [the department] don't care about what happens to me at all."

A friend from her church, a trained nurse, now helps on days when no nurse visits.

Lau's sister, Helen Lau Wai-yi, said trouble with the homecare services started in September.

The family says a nurse from the centre refused to help Tina Lau with a relaxation exercise before catheterisation, meaning her bladder could not be drained. She ended up in hospital.

A spokesman for the centre defended its handling of Lau's case and said the decision to terminate the service was down to the department.

A spokeswoman for the department said Lau was approached in March and asked to choose between the two different services. She said Lau had not responded, and the department had arranged services for her pending an agreement.

Complaints to the department would be passed on to the chairman of the service provider concerned, she added.

But lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who is working with the family, saw the complaints procedure as a problem "not just for services for the disabled, but for the elderly too".

"Going through the service provider is tricky, because there is a conflict of interest," he said. "And in the end, it's the elderly or the disabled who suffer."