Care by residential care homes for elderly persons

The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation

The Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Ordinance (Cap. 459) came into operation on 1st June 1996.

The objective of the Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation, namely, the Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) Regulation (Cap. 459A) and Residential Care Homes (Elderly Persons) (Appeal Board) Regulation (Cap. 459B), is to ensure that seniors in residential care homes receive services of an acceptable standard that meet their physical, emotional and social needs. The Ordinance and its subsidiary legislation govern the operation of residential care homes through a licensing system administered by the Social Welfare Department (SWD).

All residential care homes operating in Hong Kong must be licensed to legitimize their operations. The Ordinance sets out the minimum statutory standards for the service quality of all residential care homes, including space and staffing standards; building and fire safety; location and design; heating, lighting and ventilation; maintenance of residents' records, etc.

To ensure that residential care homes for the elderly provide services of a reasonable standard and that the welfare of the elderly residents are safeguarded, the Director of Social Welfare is responsible for determining whether to issue a residential care home licence to applicants using the following criteria: 

1. whether the applicant and people employed at the residential care home are fit persons to operate, manage or work in a residential care home;
2. whether the entrance, exit, design, construction, size, type of building, staffing and equipment on the premises to be used for the residential care home is fit to be used for that purpose; and
3. whether the premise complies with all requirements relating to the design, structure, fire precautions, health, sanitation and safety set out under section 38 of the Buildings Ordinance (Cap. 123).

If the residential care home does not fulfill the above requirements, the Director of Social Welfare may cancel, suspend or refuse to renew the licence.

The SWD is empowered to supervise residential care homes by inspecting them, directing remedial measures to be taken, or ordering them to cease operation in case of danger/perceived danger or unfulfilled requirements.