Provisional Legislative Council

Welfare Service Panel Meeting
on 13 March 1998

Information Paper on Staffing provisions in private homes for the elderly


This paper provides information to Members on staffing of private residential care homes for the elderly (RCHE).


2. The major grades of staff in RCHE are nursing and care staff. They include Registered Nurse, Enrolled Nurse, Health Worker and Care Worker. Nursing duties may be performed by either Registered/Enrolled Nurses or Health Workers, whereas personal care of home residents are undertaken by Care Workers.

3. Operators of private RCHEs have claimed that there are insufficient Health Workers and Care Workers. They have asked for more training courses for Health Workers and more flexibility on importation of Care Workers under the Supplementary Labour Scheme. The Administration has however also received representations from local workers contending that low wages and long working hours have discouraged them from joining as Care Workers.

Health Workers

4. The Social Welfare Department engaged four training institutes to organize Health Worker Training Courses in 1995-97. A total of 37 training courses have been organized providing 1 190 places, against 400 recommended by the 1994 Working Group on Care for the Elderly. The last training course was completed in June 1997 and an overall review is being carried out by the Department to assess the need for further courses.

Care Workers

5. According to the findings of a recent survey by the Census and Statistics Department, the median monthly wage of Care Workers is $6,870, and the net daily hours of work (excluding meal breaks) are nine hours.

Bought Place Scheme

6. Through a Bought Place Scheme (BPS), the Administration encourages private operators to raise their service quality by following various bought place standards including staffing levels. We expect that BPS prices would enable operators to recruit sufficient staff in the market. At present, the Scheme has purchased 1 200 places from 44 private RCHEs which have a combined capacity of 4 184 places. Under the BPS, the participating home is required to provide the same level of service for the non-BPS places. The purchase of 1 200 places has therefore resulted in over 4 000 RCHE places of an acceptable quality.

The Review

7. In his 1997 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced that :

  1. the Elderly Commission would assess the demand for residential care services and recommend by autumn 1998 a comprehensive strategy to meet the demand; and

  2. the Administration would increase by 2 400 subvented residential care places under an enhanced Bought Place Scheme in the three years 1998-2001.

8. The Elderly Commission has set up an Ad Hoc Committee on housing and residential care services for the elderly. The Ad Hoc Committee has embarked on the review exercise, and manpower supply for private RCHEs is one of the topics being looked into. In deliberating on the terms of the enhanced BPS, the Ad Hoc Committee will carefully examine the operating costs of private RCHEs including staff salaries.

9. At present, private homes are competing at a low level. We will provide every assistance in the development of an operating environment conducive to healthy competition among the industry. It is envisaged that when a quality RCHE market is formed, existing operators will be motivated to upgrade their service and new operators attracted to provide a quality service. This will in turn have a positive effect on RCHE staff wage levels.

Health and Welfare Bureau
March 1998