Former police officers may inspect Hong Kong’s private care homes
Welfare chief tells special hearing that government would also consider making warnings given to homes public, after scandal at Kwai Chung centre
Hong Kong’s welfare chief suggested on Tuesday that retired uniformed staff, such as former police officers, should inspect the city’s private disabled nursing homes, after revelations of abuse at such centres sparked public outcry.
Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung unveiled a series of measures at a special meeting of the legislature’s welfare panel after the Bridge of Rehabilitation Company, a scandal-hit nursing home for the mentally disabled in Kwai Chung, was found to have recorded at least five suspicious deaths in a year.
“We would not tolerate any unqualified nursing homes,” Cheung said, adding that his department would consider making private nursing home managers accountable for services.
The government would also consider making warnings given to homes public, to make the system more transparent, he added.
Dozens of people at the hearing, including social workers, caretakers at private nursing homes, disabled people and their parents, criticised the government for failing to monitor the quality of these homes, which they said had compromised the dignity of disabled residents.
“The Bridge of Rehabilitation Company saga has exposed that poor-quality private care homes have failed to protect those in need and the Social Welfare Department should be held responsible for the lack of monitoring,” said Lee Chi-yung, chairman of the Association of Parents of the Severely
He said the government should do background checks on nursing home managers to ensure they have no sexual criminal records, and that homes’ owners should also bear the legal responsibility for substandard services.
A mentally disabled man, surnamed Hui, described private nursing homes as “large-scale hell” which had deprived the residents of their autonomy, dignity, privacy and freedom.
“I do not know why we have to be sent to such care homes when adults could not take care of us,” he said. “We are treated as children for our whole lives and forced to live in nursing centres which unfortunately have failed to take care of us… and even torture us.”
He called on the government to adopt a rights-based approach to address the issue and set up a system which helps family members monitor care homes.
He said the government should set up a human rights commission and a commission for the disabled, adding that both were long overdue.
A frontline caretaker, surnamed Chein, said a lack of manpower had greatly hampered service quality, citing one worker at a care home who was responsible for 40 residents during night time.
Labour Party legislator Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung criticised Matthew Cheung for drastically lowering the manpower ratio required for private nursing homes for the disabled.
“The manpower ratio required in 1998 was five times higher than our current requirement,” he told Cheung. “Sometimes you can kill people even without any bad intention.”