Hong Kong officials defend plan to revoke licence of scandal-hit nursing home against charge they’re acting too late

Social welfare department criticised after confirming seven deaths in two years at centre where mentally disabled resident claimed sexual assault

PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 12:01pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 October, 2016, 11:25pm

The government has defended its decision to revoke the temporary licence of a scandal-stricken nursing home for the mentally disabled, despite new revelations there were seven deaths in two years.

The Social Welfare Department announced on Thursday it would revoke Bridge of Rehabilitation Company’s temporary operating licence because it failed to comply with care and management standards.

The nursing home in question is located in Kwai Chung

On an RTHK radio programme on Friday, the department’s assistant director Fong Kai-leung confirmed there were seven deaths over the past two years at the private care centre in Kwai Chung. He claimed the government was taking action over the centre’s failure to make immediate changes.

Fong said five out of the seven cases were reported to the department and that investigators had found no criminal evidence in four cases. The police were still investigating the fifth involving a 14-year-old boy who jumped to his death in August.

“A lot of those living with disabilities have long-term illnesses or emotional problems, and we cannot rule out the possibility of their passing away due to those reasons,” he said.

He added the remaining two cases were not reported to authorities because the families confirmed the two nursing home residents died of long-term illnesses in hospital rather than at the centre.

Fong said authorities carried out over 20 inspections over the past half year and issued two warnings to the centre over failures to comply with manpower, management and hygiene standards.

“We saw they did make some improvements, but they were not consistent enough and in the end still failed to meet our minimum requirements,” he said.

Why does it take more than two months to revoke its licence when there are so many horrifying cases of death and abuse?
Shiu Ka-chun, social welfare sector lawmaker

But social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun, who also appeared on the programme, said the action came too late.

“Why does it take more than two months to revoke its licence when there are so many horrifying cases of death and abuse?” he asked.

Labour Party lawmaker Dr Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung, who has monitored the centre for months, said there were at least five suspicious deaths at the home, including some who choked on food.

He added there were reports of residents being bitten by rats and complaints about a lack of sufficient manpower.

Shiu and Cheung urged the government to amend the law to increase the city’s minimum caretaker-to-patient ratio to prevent similar cases from happening at other private homes.

Hong Kong minister pledges stronger rules after assault claims against former nursing home head

Fong said the department had identified enough places to relocate 79 of the remaining residents over the next three weeks in Kwai Chung and nearby Tsuen Wan.

Prior to the government’s decision on Thursday, the centre’s former director Cheung Kin-wah was recently found to have escaped legal consequences for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman under his care because she was declared unfit to testify.

Additional reporting by Jeffie Lam