Care homes face bed cuts in race for bigger living areas
Some 6,300 beds across 460 care homes will be cut in the next eight years as an amendment bill - scheduled to be tabled in the Legislative Council on Wednesday - outlines the need for enhancing manpower and living areas in care homes, Secretary for Labour and Welfare Law Chi-kwong said.
Law wrote in his blog yesterday: "The amendment bill is no minor fix and if it proves successful, the care homes that fail to meet the requirements during the transitional period will be gradually phased out and replaced with homes that better meet the needs of the community."
The bill proposes raising the minimum per capita area for residents in two phases over the next eight years. The proposed living-area requirements will differ depending on the "level of care" category that the care homes are placed in.
The threshold for "high level of care" institutions will be raised from the existing 6.5 square meters per capita to eight sq m in four years. By the eighth year, that figure will further increase to 9.5 sq m. For care homes offering low to medium care, the eighth-year threshold will be eight sq m.
Though many beds will be cut, Law said the city's care-home capacity will not be reduced as the eliminated beds will be replaced by some 8,700 beds that meet the new requirements.
In the meantime, Law said, care homes can work on upgrading their facilities to meet the new guidelines. He cited reducing the number of residents, renovation or relocation to larger sites as possible courses of action.
The bill also proposes stepping up care-home regulation through the introduction of a new registration system for managers of the homes.
However, Law admitted the bill is not a panacea for all care-home woes, adding authorities should build welfare facilities on government sites and waive the land premium for private developers.
Overall, Law said, the bill covers six areas in a holistic approach to improving care homes.
The bill proposes increasing care-home operators' accountability, introducing a registration system for home managers, upgrading the existing registration system for health workers, enhancing drug management and improving regulations surrounding the use of physical restraints. The bill also suggests ways to protect residents' dignity and privacy.