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LCQ19: Monitoring of residential care homes for the elderly

     Following is a question by Hon Leung Che-cheung and a written reply by the Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, in the Legislative Council today (June 15):


     It was uncovered last year that the staff of a private residential care home for the elderly (RCHE) frequently gathered female residents who lacked self-care skills on an outdoor podium and took off all their clothes for bathing them one by one. Subsequently, the RCHE failed to have its licence renewed by the Social Welfare Department. It has been reported that a new operator intends to operate an RCHE afresh at the premises concerned in July this year but the old and new operators are alleged to have a close relationship. Some members of the public have relayed to me that the predecessor of the RCHE had a record of non-compliance, so the authorities should strengthen their inspection and monitoring of the RCHE, in order to safeguard the rights and interests of the residents and ensure that they are taken care of properly. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) whether the authorities, in vetting and approving applications for RCHE licences at present, will consider the past performance in operating RCHEs and non-compliance records of the operators and related persons;

(2) regarding those RCHEs whose licences were not renewed on the ground of non-compliance, how the authorities ensure that non-compliance will not recur in such RCHEs upon takeover by new operators;

(3) of the number of non-compliant cases uncovered by the staff of the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for the Elderly during their inspections of RCHEs in each of the past three years and the follow-up actions taken; and

(4) whether the authorities have plans to formulate measures which are more effective so as to strengthen the monitoring of the service quality of RCHEs; if they do, of the details of such measures and the implementation timetable?



     My reply to the question raised by Hon Leung Che-cheung is as follows:

(1) and (2) Under the current mechanism, before the Licensing Office of Residential Care Homes for the Elderly (LORCHE) of the Social Welfare Department (SWD) issues a licence in respect of a residential care home for the elderly (RCHE), it will consider a series of factors, including the past performance in operating RCHEs and records of non-compliance with licensing requirements of the operators and related persons. Its four professional inspectorate teams will also conduct surprise inspections at the RCHE concerned to ensure the home's compliance with the licensing requirements on building safety, fire safety, healthcare and hygiene, as well as management respectively. To strengthen monitoring, the validity period of new licences issued to private RCHEs will not be longer than 12 months. If the licence of an RCHE is not renewed on grounds of non-compliance with the required licensing requirements, the RCHE concerned must cease operation and arrange proper relocation for the residents. If a new operator applies for operating a new RCHE at the same premises, LORCHE will process the licence application of the new operator in accordance with the above mechanism.

     If a RCHE holds a valid licence for operation and only a change of operators is involved, LORCHE, when processing the application for change of operators, will consider various factors mentioned in the above vetting process as well as the past performance and records of non-compliance of that RCHE. If the RCHE has non-compliance records in the last licence period, LORCHE, in accordance with the risk-based principle, will strengthen inspections of the home so as to protect the welfare of the elderly residents.

(3) Over the past three years (i.e. 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16), LORCHE conducted 5 254, 5 445 and 5 260 inspections respectively. LORCHE conducts on average about seven surprise inspections at each private RCHE per year, and adjusts the frequency of inspections in accordance with the risk-based principle to enhance the monitoring of non-compliant RCHEs and ensure timely rectification of irregularities. Over the past three years, LORCHE issued 3 204, 3 028 and 2 674 advisory letters to RCHEs respectively, and issued 364, 320 and 361 warning letters respectively. In addition, over the past three years, LORCHE took 15 successful prosecutions against RCHEs committing offences under the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation.

(4) The Chief Executive announced, in the 2016 Policy Address, that the Government would comprehensively strengthen the monitoring of RCHEs and residential care homes for persons with disabilities. This would be achieved through measures including enhancing inspection and supervision, improving the regulatory mechanism and promoting staff training, etc. In order to take forward the initiatives, SWD will establish a new Licensing and Regulation Branch in 2016-17 to implement the work on enhancing monitoring of homes and improving their service quality. Concrete measures including strengthening the inspection strategy and stepping up audit inspections; setting up a dedicated team to handle complaints against RCHEs; reviewing the Code of Practice for RCHEs and formulating care-related guidelines; enhancing training and planning for a quality improvement project; as well as developing a dedicated website on long-term care services for the elderly to offer one-stop service information of over 700 RCHEs in the whole territory for better transparency. The new website is expected to be launched by end 2016. In addition, SWD will extend in 2016-17 the Service Quality Group Scheme on RCHEs to the whole territory with all types of RCHEs covered, joining force with the collaborative efforts of the community to monitor RCHEs through wider participation of community stakeholders in the scheme.

Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Issued at HKT 12:23


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