My Take

Problems with care homes can be resolved, but only if officials care

Some facilities serving the mentally disabled or the elderly are, literally, getting away with murder while officials twiddle their thumb

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 2:05am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 October, 2016, 2:05am

The Bridge of Rehabilitation now sounds less like a nursing home and more like a house of horrors.

Its closure has come too late – thanks to the Social Welfare Department being completely asleep at the wheel.

Questions have been raised about at least five deaths at the care home for the mentally disabled in the past two years.

Its former superintendent, Cheung Kin-wah, escaped punishment after allegedly sexually assaulting a 21-year-old disabled woman under his care because she was declared unfit to testify against him.

This home is probably just the most sensational failure of the department’s oversight under a system that has proved completely ineffectual. Many care homes operate with terrible service and subpar management under the department’s monitoring system. They are just not as extreme as the Bridge of Rehabilitation, or their misdeeds have not been exposed.

This is a long-standing systemic failure and the government’s most senior welfare officials are directly implicated.

The department’s director, Carol Yip Man-kuen, and her boss, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, should be personally held responsible.

Even after the Bridge of Rehabilitation was shut, government welfare workers monitoring the transfer of its residents to other homes still managed to mess up.

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There have been reports of accidents, mental deterioration and inadequate care for some of the transferred residents.

The Bridge of Rehabilitation is among 251 care homes that have failed to meet minimal standards set out in the Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance, which took effect in 2011.

They have been given temporary licences. The government says another two to three years are needed to end all such licences.

It’s been five years and they still can’t meet standards. So the government turns a blind eye.

After health care and education, social welfare takes up the largest chunk of government spending. But you really wonder how the money is spent and how the system operates when some of society’s most vulnerable people fall through the cracks.

We must not tolerate substandard, dangerous, abusive or neglectful services. If officials are afraid a crackdown would shut down homes and leave residents without service, the only way is to put aside a massive one-off fund – along with tough supervision – to force those homes to reach acceptable standards. The government has the money; it just doesn’t care.