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Shanghai nursing homes falling short, experts say

Updated: 2013-12-20 00:13
By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai ( China Daily)

Shanghai nursing homes falling short, experts say

Two senior citizens eat at a restaurant in Lanzhou, Gansu province, in 2012. They ordered their meals through a virtual nursing home, which offers discount prices to elderly people.[Pei Qiang/ for China Daily]

Policy advisers have urged Shanghai to tackle the disparity in the availability of nursing homes in downtown and suburban areas.

Shanghai has 105,000 vacant beds, yet more than a third are in care centers on the city's outskirts, according to the city's civil affairs bureau.

Shen Guoming, a member of the Standing Committee of Shanghai People's Congress, said that many elderly people are unwilling to stay in these areas due to the inconvenient locations and inadequate support facilities, such as medical clinics.

Shen, who is also vice-chairman of the Shanghai Social Sciences Association, made the comments during a seminar on draft regulations for the service and management of nursing homes.

"We should urge every district to allocate adequate land resources for elderly care homes through legislation," he said. "The government should prioritize serving the people, especially in social sectors where there is a disparity between supply and demand."

Wu Hanmin, vice-chairwoman of the committee, added: "Government responsibility, including strengthening and optimizing public services, was a key topic during the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee, and supporting the elderly is an important way to show that responsibility."

Shanghai is predicted to have 4.3 million permanent residents aged over 60 in 2015, making up 30 percent of the city's population, according to the city's civil affairs bureau.

"Land resources in Hong Kong are limited, but when I was in downtown Hong Kong in April, I found three nursing homes near the hotel I was staying at," Shen said. "The government can solve the problem as long as it's determined to do so."

However, land alone cannot solve the headache, said Wu Fan, standing committee member and director of the Shanghai Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"One obvious contradiction is the need for medial treatment in nursing homes and the lack of doctors and nurses, who understandably don't want to work in suburban areas, where there is little career development," she said.

One way to solve the problem, she suggested, is to employ trained attendants to provide daily medical care, such as making up prescriptions and giving injections, and invite doctors from nearby hospitals to take turns at working in care homes.

The draft regulations also state that more private nursing homes will be established, as ones set up with government funding cannot meet demand.

"Out of the 650 nursing homes in Shanghai, 350 were set up with private investment, and they'll make up a larger proportion in the future," said Shen Zhixian, director of the Shanghai standing committee's internal and judicial affairs committee.

As an incentive to attract investment from the public, the nursing homes will be eligible for privileges in taxation and administrative and operating charges.

The requirement for the number of beds in a nursing home has been brought down from 50 to 10 in the Law on Protection of the Rights and Interests of the Elderly, which came into effect on July 1, a development experts say will encourage more small and family oriented nursing homes.