Riding the wave of construction of Greater Bay Area to solve the problem of elderly care services
The pace of construction of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area (Greater Bay Area) becomes faster and faster, offering hard-to-come-by opportunities for Hong Kong to solve some thorny problems. Guangzhou's Nansha District has taken the lead in gradually opening residential places of nursing homes to eligible elderly people from Hong Kong and Macao, with 50 care beds exclusively for Hong Kong and Macao elderly people offered as the first step. Although the number of beds available at the beginning is small, the move is rather eye-catching. Compared to staying in Hong Kong, there are advantages for elderly Hongkongers go and reside in public care institutions in Greater Bay Area. For instance, beds available are sufficient, cost low while space big. To encourage more elderly people to go to Guangdong and spend their remaining years in comfort, the SAR Government must seize the opportunity to launch supporting measures so that such a good thing can be done well.
Following the unveiling of the Overall Plan for Deepening Globally Oriented Comprehensive Co-operation amongst Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macao in Nansha of Guangzhou in 2022, Nansha District Government began to play a pioneering role in providing elderly care services to Hong Kong and Macao people residing in the district. Days ago, it unveiled the Implementation Plan for Opening Government-supported Elderly Care Institutions in the District to Hong Kong and Macao People Residing in the District to help turn Nansha into a “Place for Peace of Mind” for Hong Kong and Macao elderly people. The first step was to provide 50 care beds in five-star institutions, three of which has already been taken. Ho Pak, one of the three, had resided in a Hong Kong elderly home before. After observing and making a comparison, he eventually decided to spend his remaining years in Nansha. He spoke very highly of the elderly home he now resides in: "Here, the environment is pleasant, food affordable and delicious, and services of good quality. On special days such as wedding anniversary, Teachers' Day or the anniversary of Hong Kong's return to the Motherland, staff members would hold celebrations for us, like we are family."
One cannot help but sigh with emotion upon listening to Ho Pak's description of his own experience as an example. Elderly care is one of Hong Kong's thorny problems. Firstly, demand for residential elderly care places always exceeds supply. While in better environment, government subvented homes regretfully have fewer places, so the waiting time is quite long. Each year several thousand elderly people died in waiting. Although the government also buys places from private institutions, but the cost is high and the number limited. Secondly, the space is not sufficient. In Hong Kong, a residential care place is about 100 square feet. Small living space could easily lead one to feel blue. Thirdly, elderly homes in Hong Kong are short of care workers and have to import workers from the Mainland. This year, the number of workers to be imported will increase. But importing workers from the Mainland also has the problem of helping them settle down. As the living standards in the Mainland keep improving, income gap between the two places keeps narrowing. Hence hiring workers from the Mainland becomes increasingly difficult and thus cannot go on for long. It may be said that given Hong Kong's reality, elderly care become an increasingly tough challenge. As a result, some elderly people going back to spend their remaining years in the Mainland could have the effect of diversification, and is also a must.
As already reported, there are a lot of advantages for elderly Hongkongers to go back and spend their remaining years in Greater Bay Area cities. Vast in area, Guangdong has enormous space to build elderly homes, and the speed of construction there is fast. Elderly care homes in the Mainland are spacious, with 300 square feet per person. And an elderly home normally also has a board-game room, dancing room, library and other facilities. Adopting delicacy management, Mainland's elderly homes could offer multiple choices. More importantly, Mainland's care homes are suited for all budgets. Taking Guangzhou for example, the monthly fee for a place could be as low as 2,000 yuan while it is 3,000 yuan in general, and goes up to 7,000 yuan in a high-end nursing home with an attached university for the elderly. Even so it is till much cheaper than in Hong Kong.
Since there are so many advantages for elderly Hongkongers to enjoy care services in the Mainland and Guangdong is willing to make it happen, there is no reason for the SAR Government not to take advantage of such an opportunity. As suggested, the SAR Government could cooperate with elderly homes in Greater Bay Area cities and buy a large number of care beds. The SAR Government and relevant institutions could also go north to buy property. It'd be better to buy whole buildings and use them as apartments for the elderly. There are benefits for doing this. One is low cost. Apart from Shenzhen and Guangzhou, housing prices in second-tier and third-tier cities is less than 10 per cent of that in Hong Kong. The second is that elderly Hongkongers living together would feel familiar with each other and become easy to adapt, which would also facilitate management. The third is that a one-hour high-quality ling circle will be formed with the improvement of transport and infrastructure, making it easy for elderly Hongkongers residing in the Mainland to travel back. Elderly Hongkongers' biggest worry for living in the Mainland is how to see the doctor. This will be easily solved with the implementation of Measure of using HK registered drugs and medical devices used in HK public hospitals in Greater Bay Area and the increase of medical-care facilities available for Hongkongers. It would be even more attractive if tax allowances could be given to children whose parents are residing in Mainland care homes.
Co-construction of Greater Bay Area and through maximised allocation of resources in the area could help Hong Kong solve many problems that could hardly be tackled by itself. Elderly care is just one of them. Keeping an eye on Greater Bay Area, the SAR Government and Hong Kong society could broaden their vision and smooth their thinking. The crux of the matter is to show courage and determination and do what it should be done.,