Hong Kong welfare authorities were aware of care home’s false manpower disclosure before deaths of seven residents
Social Welfare Department admits staffing issue was one reason behind revocation of operating licence for Bridge of Rehabilitation, as families of victims wait for answers and an apology over mysterious deaths and alleged sexual abuse
The Social Welfare Department was aware that a controversial nursing home for the mentally disabled had falsely declared its level of manpower before a series of mysterious deaths and cases of alleged sexual abuse came to light, the department’s director admitted on Saturday.
Carol Yip Man-kuen said the staffing issue was one of the reasons behind the department’s recent decision to revoke the temporary operating licence of Bridge of Rehabilitation care home in Kwai Chung, where seven deaths have taken place in the past two years.
Staff shortages are a serious challenge for all care homes in the city, she said, but the department would not tolerate false declarations and would take action against any violations.
Yip’s remarks on Saturday came after about 20 care groups and some pro-democracy lawmakers met with officials from the department to demand better supervision of the city’s nursing homes.
“We understand it is our responsibility to supervise nursing homes, and we admit there is room for improvement in the system,” Yip said.
“After hearing many opinions today ... we will go back to make improvements.”
Some participants at the meeting were unhappy however with its results and criticised the department for what they said was a lack of action.
Labour Party legislator Fernando Cheung Chiu-hung said the department promised to put an end in the next two or three years to the current practice whereby temporary operating licences are issued to substandard care homes. Under the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance, which took effect in 2011, that practice should have been scrapped three years ago.
According to Yip, there are 251 care homes in the city that have failed to meet licensing requirements and so are operating under the temporary scheme.
“Why would it need another two or three years to cancel such a system?” Cheung said.
Social welfare sector lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said the parents of victims from Bridge of Rehabilitation were still waiting for answers regarding the deaths and an apology from the department for failing in its duties.
“I felt very disappointed about the meeting and the department’s refusal to apologise,” said a mother whose son is a resident of the care home.
About 70 people took part in the 2-1/2-hour meeting on Saturday. A public hearing will be held at the Legislative Council by the department on November 1.
On Thursday, the department decided to revoke the care home’s temporary operating licence for it failing to comply with care and management standards, after at least five suspicious deaths took place at the nursing home over two years.
Suspicions were first raised when a 14-year-old boy jumped to his death in August.
Prior to the government’s decision it had also emerged that the centre’s former director Cheung Kin-wah had escaped legal consequences for allegedly sexually assaulting a woman under his care because she was declared unfit to testify in the case against him.