Proposed HK$220 million pilot scheme could provide cheaper transitional care to at least 3,200 elderly patients
Programme aims to reduce need for hospital readmission and avoid premature admission to care homes
At least 3,200 elderly patients could benefit from subsidies of up to 95 per cent for residential care and community support services for as long as six months if a pilot scheme proposed by the government is approved.
During a Legislative Council meeting on Monday, Annie Tam Kam-lan, Permanent Secretary for Labour and Welfare, revealed details of the programme first announced by Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying during his policy address in January.
The aim is to enable old folks who have just been discharged from hospital to continue ageing in place in a familiar community after receiving the necessary services during the transitional period, thus avoiding premature admission into residential care homes for the elderly, she explained.
At present, the government collaborates with the Hospital Authority on the Integrated Discharge Support Programme for Elderly Patients, which targets mainly elderly persons newly discharged from public hospitals who have been assessed by medical staff to be at high risk of unplanned readmission to hospital.
Tam said the government plans to invite the Community Care Fund to consider implementing a new scheme to support elderly persons who are not covered under the existing programme and are assessed to be in need of transitional care and support. Such services can reduce the need for readmission.
Under the proposal, eligible elderly patients newly discharged from hospital will generally receive transitional care and support in the community for not more than six months in total, including temporary residential care, community care and support services, she said.
For temporary residential care services, eligible elderly persons will be issued service vouchers for HK$12,416 and can choose among the eligible residential care homes for the elderly to receive temporary residential care services.
For community care and support services, the value of the vouchers will range between HK$3,600 and HK$8,600.
Patients under the scheme can benefit from subsidies between 60 per cent and 95 per cent of the voucher value, Tam added.
Social workers will regularly help review various aspects of each case, deploy relevant assessment tools to evaluate the patients’ post-transitional service needs and make service referrals as appropriate, she said.
As a preliminary estimate, the scheme can provide support for a minimum of 3,200 elderly patients in total, Tam said.
Lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki described the scheme as “a cup of water on a burning cartload of firewood”, a Chinese idiom referring to a futile effort.
“The issue [of these elderly people needing care and support] will not be resolved after six months as those participating in the plan are likely to be at a high risk of readmission,” Kwok, who is also a doctor, said.
“What they need is not transitional housing but a proper arrangement, such as residential homes.”
He also pointed out that there were not many organisations able to provide such services.
The bureau plans to submit the proposal to the Community Care Fund Task Force under the Commission of Poverty for consideration in May. Subject to the views of the task force, the proposal will be submitted to the Commission on Poverty for endorsement and for Community Care Fund funding.
The government proposes that the pilot scheme be rolled out in the first quarter of 2018 for a period of three years.
The estimated funding requirement is around HK$220 million, and includes transitional residential care and community care and support services, staffing expenses and administration costs.