Hundreds of people, including nursing home operators and families with elderly relatives, staged a demonstration outside the Ministry of the Interior yesterday, protesting new standards for nursing homes that are set to come into effect as early as next week.
Throwing adult diapers and calling for Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan (李鴻源) to step down, a crowd of about 400 people with 200 wheelchairs protested against new rules for nursing facilities yesterday afternoon.
“As many as 18,000 seniors might have nowhere to go, if the government enacts the new nursing home standards as scheduled, because more than 600 such facilities — accounting for more than 60 percent of all nursing homes — could be forced to close,” Taipei City Association for Service of Senior Citizens chairman Chu Wei-jen (朱偉仁) said. “This is a serious issue that the government needs to handle with great care.”
In 2007, the ministry adopted a new set of standards for nursing homes, with a five-year period for their introduction, Chu said.
Although the new standards for manpower will come into effect on Wednesday, and those for hardware by the end of the year, most private nursing homes have not yet upgraded, he said.
“During the five-year introductory period, the government provided no guidance about what we should do and when we went and asked for help, they just ignored us,” Chu said.
“The government should take care of seniors, but unfortunately, it has offered no assistance as we struggle to look after elderly family members,” National Union of Long Term Care Development Associations Taiwan president Liu Yung (劉勇) told the crowd. “The government changed the rules and left us not knowing what to do.”
Small privately operated nursing homes are major providers of care for seniors nationwide, but they have found it difficult to upgrade their labor force and facilities to the new requirements, Liu said.
“However, when these small nursing homes disappear, people will be forced to send seniors to larger nursing homes, which could cost up to NT$30,000 a month for each individual — almost three times as much as smaller facilities,” he said. “I do not think most families are going to be able to afford that.”
Convenience is another issue, because most nursing homes are located in the communities where the seniors and their families live, he said.
“That makes it easier for families to visit regularly, or to use nursing homes as daycare centers when they have to work during the day,” he said.
Democratic Progressive Party legislators Liu Chien-kuo (劉建國) and Chen Ou-po (陳歐珀) took part in the demonstration, and promised to help promote a dialogue between the demonstrators and the ministry.
A specialist from the ministry’s Department of Social Affairs received the demonstrators and promised to look into their petition.