Greater transparency urged for private elderly homes

Updated at 6.05pm: The Social Welfare Department on Monday urged privately-run elderly homes in Hong Kong to adopt greater transparency and openness regarding their fees and refund policies.

The call was made in response to a Consumer Council survey report, which found prices and services provided by private elderly homes varied considerably.

The watchdog, which earlier polled 185 elderly homes in Hong Kong, said consumers could find it confusing when choosing care services for elderly people.

?First, and foremost, is the level of care required for an elderly person as assessed by a registered doctor ? namely, high, middle or low level of care,? the council said.

Charges for a single-bed accommodation with a ?high level of care? ranged from $3,500 to $10,000. Those for a ?middle level? one ranged from $3,000 to $6,500 and a ?low level? one cost from $2,000 to $6,000, it said.

Room rates also varied considerably: from $3,000 to $18,700 for a twin room, and $3,000 to $24,750 for a single room.

The council found some operators did not state clearly what services were included by prices operators had listed.

?Consumers will do well to check what items they need to pay extra. In most cases, prices quoted cover basically rent, meals and care service; such services as physical therapy, social activities, entertainment, medical supplies and grooming products are usually charged separately,? the council said.

Apart from pricing, the watchdog also urged consumers to take heed of the refund policy.

Its survey showed 60 per cent of responding operators would not refund the remaining part of monthly fees on early termination of residence.

For hospitalisation lasting for over a month, 31.4 per cent of operators said they would not provide refunds; 51.9 per cent said they would only reimburse meals and miscellaneous items.

In cases of the sudden death of the resident, 50.8 per cent of operators said there would be no refund at all.

A spokesman said on Monday the department had issued a set of guidelines to help monitor care homes for the elderly.

He said the code required elderly homes to give a clear explanation to residents and their family members, relatives, guardians or guarantors on details of fees, charges and refund conditions.

The demand for care services for the elderly in Hong Kong has been increasing in recent years with the territory?s growing ageing population. Statistics show more than 10,000 people were on the waiting list for government-run elderly homes.