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Boost for private elderly care

By Yang Yang | China Daily Europe | Updated: 2017-03-03 07:56

As China's population grows older on average, business is stepping in to serve new demand for health, lifestyle services

It is a cold day early in the Lunar New Year, and 82-year-old Cai Hongyi is sitting in a chair at the entrance of the four-story Kangyi Nursing Home in Caiji in Suqian, Jiangsu province.

The home, with a capacity of 400 beds, appears deserted, as most of the 80 residents have been taken home by their families for Spring Festival.

Cai just returned from his hometown in a village about 5 kilometers away. As a farmer, he spent his whole life there, raising four children with his wife.

 Boost for private elderly care

Above: Elderly people play poker in Caiji Social Welfare Center. Liu Yulong (top right), 74, cleans the center's canteen. Cai Hongyi (bottom right), 82, sits at the entrance of Kangyi Nursing home, where he pays 1,500 yuan a month for a place in a two-bed ward with an attached bathroom. Photos by Yang Yang / China Daily

About 10 years ago, Cai's wife was bedridden. So, in order for her to receive appropriate care, the couple moved into a nursing home.

When Kangyi opened up two years ago, the family decided to transfer the couple there because it offered better facilities and was closer to their home.

On the third floor, the nursing home is connected with a nearby hospital.

At the end of 2016, Cai's wife died, so now he spends 1,500 yuan ($218; 206 euros; 176) a month for a place in a two-bed ward with an attached bathroom at Kangyi.

"I've become used to this place, so staying at home is not as comfortable as living here," he says, explaining why he returned quickly after the New Year celebrations at home.

Boost for private elderly care

Most of the residents are over 80 and either wheelchair-bound or bedridden.

On the third floor, two men, each over 100, share a three-bed ward.

Zhou Qin, the 38-year-old in charge of nursing services, goes over to one of them and says xin nian hao (Happy New Year)!

The man listens carefully and replies after several seconds with a quiet, "xin nian hao".

Suqian, with a population of about 5 million, used to be a major agricultural hub in northern Jiangsu province, but the local economy is now diversified. Young people work in finance and technology sectors.

Earlier, the elderly in the rural areas typically relied on their children to take care of them.

But, with the country seeing its elderly population growing, the old structures seem to be crumbling, forcing the authorities to step in.

Over the last three years, the local government has been focusing more on how to care for the aged.

Now it is encouraging private investment in this field to supplement public social welfare centers.

Kangyi is just one of 11 privately owned nursing homes built in Suqian's Sucheng District that comprises nearly 720,000 people.

The local government provided a subsidy of 5,000 yuan per bed when Kangyi was built two years ago, adding to the private investment of nearly 20 million yuan.

Now residents at Kangyi pay 1,500 yuan a month if they do not need nursing services.

Boost for private elderly care

"We charge between 1,500 and 2,500 yuan for nursing services," says Liu Peichao, 47, Kangyi's director.

Meanwhile, besides private nursing homes, the district's 11 towns each have a public social welfare center that houses the elderly who are unable to work and have no family members to care for them.

The government grants 500 yuan to each person per month for daily expenses.

At the Caiji Social Welfare Center, more than 30 such elderly residents share 10 rooms.

At the center's canteen, 74-year-old Liu Yulong is cooking lunch. "We pay the elderly who help to cook or clean the place," he says. "We do not take in people who need nursing care because we do not have funds to pay nurses," he says.

If residents need nursing care, they are transferred to the Kangyi home.

Speaking about how private nursing homes survive, Kangyi's director Liu says that they have very small margins of profit.

It is difficult to recruit qualified nurses, especially men, he says.

"Only 19 percent of privately run homes make profits. Almost half lose money and the rest barely make ends meet," he says.

"In last two years, we have lost more than 100,000 yuan annually."

"Even if in the future all the 400 beds are taken we will still make only a small profit, mostly from people who need nursing care," he says.

(China Daily European Weekly 03/03/2017 page22)

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