Welfare department under fire over elderly abuse

May 27, 2015 10:17
Irene Luk (inset) says residents would have left if claims of elderly abuse were true. Later, her nursing home apologized for mistreating residents. Photos: Ming Pao, Metro Daily

Hong Kong welfare authorities are facing a firestorm after photos of naked elderly people waiting in line for their bath surfaced in newspapers and on social media.

The Social Welfare Department (SWD) is being accused of negligence over the activities of Tai Po Cambridge Nursing Home, a private elderly care facility.

SWD said it reported the matter to the police and that it might revoke the nursing home's license. 

Legislator Peter Cheung is demanding to know why the department did not punish the operator despite issuing 15 warnings, Ming Pao Daily reported Wednesday.

On Tuesday, the nursing home apologized to the affected residents and their families and said it had sacked a nurse and disciplined some staff. 

Earlier, its founder, Irene Luk, denied accusations by some families that their elderly relatives were being mistreated.

She said residents would have left if the allegations were true.

Cheung said the apology is not enough and the concerned residents should be compensated for being subjected to humiliation.

He accused welfare authorities of being remiss in providing oversight after Ming Pao revealed incidents of elderly abuse are common at the home, which bills itself as a six-star facility. 

A resident's relative, surnamed Chan, said she was told the practice is common across the nursing home industry after she complained to a staff member.

Chan said her mother was later told not to bring up the matter again or she would end up with a longer wait for her bath, the report said.

Other family members said they had no choice but to keep their relatives in the home because there are not enough elderly care facilities.

A concern group against elderly abuse said the nursing home broke the law and the concerned employees should be fired or suspended.

It said welfare officials should take responsibility for the fiasco instead of simply leaving the matter to the police.

SWD did not respond to queries about why no action was taken against the nursing home during the past five years after more than 100 inspections.

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