RESIDENTS in homes for the aged may have to go without baths and would not be guaranteed proper care if serious staff shortages were not solved, operators warned yesterday. The warning came after the Government allowed only 180 imported mainland health workers to be employed at 219 homes for the aged under the labour importation scheme, fewer than 15 per cent of applications. At present, there are about 420 homes for the aged in the territory. The chairman of the Association for the Private Homes for the Elderly, Wong Yuk-yip, said the 219 homes had applied for 1,275 health workers from China. 'About 150 private centres for the elderly failed to find one. Meanwhile, their current mainland workers will soon return home because their contracts will expire,' she said. Mrs Wong said the number of elderly people in the private aged homes had increased to 14,000 this year from about 8,000 in 1992 but the number of health workers brought in from China dropped to 321 last year from 435 in 1992. 'At present, we are suffering serious labour shortages. Because of insufficient manpower, our workers fail to provide the elderly with proper care,' she said. The owner of the Wing On Home for the Aged, Wong Shiu-ling, 44, said the number of health workers had been reduced from nine to four after the Government had turned down her application for the renewal of the contracts of five current mainland health workers. Her two mainland workers returned to China yesterday after their contracts expired. The other three will leave today. 'We suffer serious staff shortages. We could not find local workers to replace them and I have asked my partner, his wife and my relatives for help to maintain our present services. But it is only for the short-term,' she said. 'If we fail to find replacements, our services will be affected and the elderly will suffer. Due to lack of manpower, the elderly may not enjoy bathing every day and our rehabilitation programmes like group activities will have to be cancelled.' The home now houses about 56 people, and a third are bedridden. The residents range in age from 50 to 99. Mrs Wong said: 'I hope the Government will consider our situation and increase the quota for the importation of mainland foreign workers. 'We really don't want to close for business, rendering the aged residents homeless.' A spokesman for the Education and Manpower Branch said the quota allocated to the elderly homes under the General Labour Importation Scheme was 313 this year. Mrs Wong said: 'The Government did not increase the number of imported health workers from China and instead further cut the quota. It's unreasonable and makes the situation even worse,' The private homes association estimated there was a shortage of about 1,500 local health workers. Yesterday, about 150 private centres for the elderly jointly launched an urgent recruitment drive for local female health workers. The applicants must be below 60 and complete primary education level but no working experience is required. 'Please join private centres for the elderly. Show your love and help Hong Kong's needy elderly,' the advertisement said. Mrs Wong said: 'I have no language, age, and outlook requirements but I have failed to find one person over the past two months.'