Lack of training also highlighted after drug blunders The shortage of staff at old people's homes is the biggest problem affecting their service standards, according to Elderly Commission chairman Leong Che-hung. That many of the staff were volunteers who lacked training was another key factor, he said. But the director of social services denied staff were undertrained. Both men were speaking following the latest in a series of blunders in which residents of old people's homes have been given the wrong drugs. Dr Leong said volunteers tended to work at homes where their own relatives were being cared for, and when their loved ones died they tended to leave. 'We need to let them work and go through training at the same time,' he said yesterday after a public function in Wan Chai. 'It's a good business opportunity - we can use this to stimulate [the market for elderly care personnel].' Ideally the training should encourage volunteers to train to become registered nurses, Dr Leong said. He said staff who repeatedly dispensed the wrong medicines to residents must be severely punished. But addressing staff shortages was the key to resolving the problem. A 96-year-old woman needed treatment for low blood sugar this week after being mistakenly given diabetes medication at a home for the elderly. In April, nine residents of old people's homes without any history of diabetes needed hospital treatment for low blood sugar. At least one was found to have been mistakenly given drugs for diabetes. The Director of the Social Welfare Department, Paul Tang Kwok-wai, said nurses and medical assistants at homes were definitely provided with adequate training. Asked if homes should be required to hire staff just to dispense drugs, the director said he did not think this was necessary. He noted that larger homes had staff whose only job was to dispense drugs, but said: 'The most important thing is that dispensers must be [sufficiently] trained ... the work is not very complicated.' Mr Tang said many homes for the elderly assigned the job of dispensing medicine to general medical staff, such as nurses, in rotation.