Vir­tual nurs­ing homes in need of more funds

Ex­perts call on gov­ern­ment to boost sup­port for home-based care

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By MA LIE in Xi’an

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments are be­ing urged to boost fund­ing for “vir­tual nurs­ing homes” to cope with the ris­ing de­mand for el­derly care.

The model, which al­lows re­tirees to re­ceive sup­port in their own homes through a net­work of ser­vice providers, has al­ready been put into prac­tice in some ar­eas, in­clud­ing Gansu prov­ince.

A vir­tual nurs­ing home in Lanzhou has been op­er­at­ing for four years and has 88,000 reg­is­tered clients in Cheng­guan dis­trict.

El­derly peo­ple can ac­cess 230 ser­vices by call­ing its hot­line, such as ar­rang­ing dis­counted meals at part­ner restau­rants, med­i­cal treat­ment, clean­ing ser­vices and en­ter­tain­ment.

“By putting in a call, I pay 6 yuan ($1) a day for a meal at a restau­rant nearby worth 15 yuan,” said Wang Liwei, 77, as he tucked into a lunch of rice, beef and veg­eta­bles.

Li Peng, the deputy di­rec­tor of the vir­tual nurs­ing home, said com­pared with the 20 mil­lion yuan it would take to build a nurs­ing home with 300 beds, “a vir­tual one costs just 2 mil­lion yuan to set up and run, and can serve more than 80,000 peo­ple”.

How­ever, fund­ing is a prob­lem, he said.

“It’s the main dif­fi­culty we face in en­sur­ing the sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment of our ser­vice.”

In 2010, the dis­trict gov­ern­ment al­lo­cated 6.4 mil­lion yuan to the vir­tual home, which han­dled 119,400 calls for as­sis­tance from clients. Last year, it was 12.99 mil­lion yuan and 472,100 calls.

Liu Wen­juan, gen­eral man­ager of the restau­rant where Wang en­joys his dis­count lunches, said his busi­ness gets al­most no ben­e­fit from be­ing one of the home’s 126 part­ners.

He urged the gov­ern­ment to pro­vide more sup­port to com­pa­nies that help out with el­derly care.

Home-based care for the el­derly is be­com­ing the first choice for many peo­ple in China to­day, so sup­port­ing vir­tual nurs­ing homes would be a good di­rec­tion to take, ac­cord­ing to Zhang Bao­tong, a re­searcher at Shaanxi Academy of So­cial Sciences.

Ma Jie, a pro­fes­sor at Chang’an Univer­sity in Xi’an, cap­i­tal of Shaanxi prov­ince, agreed and added: “The gov­ern­ment should in­vest more funds and train teams with pro­fes­sional knowl­edge and skills to meet the needs of el­derly peo­ple.”

PEI QIANG / FOR CHINA DAILY

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.

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