City seeks to cut costs for pri­vate care

‘Mas­sive’ in­fu­sion of money will help shift ser­vices from State-run cen­ters

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - NATION - By ZHENG XIN zhengxin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Bei­jing is seek­ing to fur­ther re­duce the costs for pri­vately run nurs­ing homes and is striv­ing to dou­ble the num­ber of nurs­ing in­sti­tu­tions by 2020 to cope with the gray­ing society.

Although the cap­i­tal has al­lo­cated more than 5 bil­lion yuan ($820 mil­lion) ev­ery year for el­derly care, the an­nual in­crease of 150,000 se­niors poses a chal­lenge for the govern­ment.

The key is to trans­fer more com­pen­sa­tion from State-run nurs­ing homes to pri­vate ones, said Li Hong­bing, deputy direc­tor of Bei­jing Civil Af­fairs Bu­reau.

“It’s nec­es­sary to make both types of nurs­ing in­sti­tu­tions run by the rule and dis­ci­pline of the mar­ket,” he said.

De­mand for se­nior care at pub­lic nurs­ing in­sti­tu­tions far ex­ceeds the sup­ply of ser­vices, even as many pri­vate nurs­ing homes have va­can­cies thanks to higher charges and poorer ser­vices. So the govern­ment will work to pro­vide more tax breaks and land-cost re­duc­tions to en­cour­age the growth of pri­vate fa­cil­i­ties in the next two years, Li said.

“It’s nec­es­sary to at­tract more so­cial cap­i­tal to im­prove the qual­ity of se­nior wel­fare, with more sub­si­dies to the pri­vate ones and less to the pub­lic nurs­ing homes,” he said.

Bei­jing’s gray­ing society is grow­ing rapidly, with more than 400 peo­ple cel­e­brat­ing their 60th birth­day ev­ery day. The cap­i­tal, home to 2.63 mil­lion peo­ple above 60 — 20.3 per­cent of its pop­u­la­tion — will see an es­ti­mated in­crease of 100,000 se­nior cit­i­zens ev­ery year un­til 2020.

How­ever, the city has only 400 nurs­ing in­sti­tu­tions, hav­ing a to­tal of 76,000 beds — 29,000 un­der the govern­ment and 47,000 in the pri­vate sec­tor.

The pri­vate care homes, with their mas­sive up-front in­vest­ments, usu­ally charge higher prices, while those run by the State en­joy free land from the govern­ment and at­tract more se­niors with stan­dard­ized ser­vices.

The govern­ment is try­ing to cut the cost to con­sumers of pri­vate nurs­ing fa­cil­i­ties by one-third through large com­pen­sa­tions and fur­ther re­duc­tions of the costs of util­i­ties, Li said.

Li said in­vest­ment in pri­vate nurs­ing in­sti­tu­tions would see a “mas­sive in­crease”, with as much as 50,000 yuan ($8,200) al­lo­cated for each bed, com­pared to be­tween 8,000 and 16,000 yuan in the past.

At the same time, Li said the govern­ment is seek­ing to grad­u­ally re­duce pay­ments to nurs­ing homes run by the govern­ment, to make sure the mar­ket plays a key role.

To bet­ter care for more el­derly peo­ple, Bei­jing au­thor­i­ties aim to pro­vide more than 120,000 nurs­ing beds by 2015 and 160,000 by the end of 2020. Many fa­cil­i­ties would be built by the govern­ment but run by the pri­vate sec­tor.

Li said the at­tempt is to make sure op­er­a­tors do not have to worry about the cost and can fo­cus on man­age­ment and ser­vice.

“With lower costs, it is be­lieved the pri­vate nurs­ing homes will fo­cus more on the ser­vice qual­ity while low­er­ing charges to the se­niors,” Li said.

House calls

To take full ad­van­tage of the nurs­ing homes and cope with the ex­plo­sive in­crease of se­nior cit­i­zens, Bei­jing must rely on com­mu­nity-based care, where el­derly res­i­dents live in their own homes and en­joy house calls from staff at nearby cen­ters, Li said.

“No mat­ter how ad­vanced the ser­vices are, the el­derly still pre­fer liv­ing in their own apart­ments,” he said. “Com­mu­nity nurs­ing homes will not only ben­e­fit the rel­a­tively few res­i­dents liv­ing in a cen­ter, but also the hun­dreds of

LI WEN / XIN­HUA

Vol­un­teers visit res­i­dents of an el­derly care cen­ter in Bei­jing in Oc­to­ber.

Li Hong­bing, deputy direc­tor of Bei­jing Civil Af­fairs Bu­reau

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