The Hong Kong government is set to revoke the temporary licence of a home for the disabled that is embroiled in a series of scandals involving a sexual assault allegation and six deaths – it is the first time a care home has had its licence taken away.
The Bridge of Rehabilitation in Kwai Chung has come under the spotlight after the prosecution recently withdrew a charge against the home’s former director for sexually assaulting a woman under his care, because she could not testify in court.
The Social Welfare Department said on Thursday that after seeking legal advice, it intends to revoke the temporary licence of the home. The 2011 Residential Care Homes (Persons with Disabilities) Ordinance requires care homes to comply with licensing standards, but those that existed before 2011 may apply for a temporary licence while making improvement works to meet the licensing requirements.
The department said that the Bridge of Rehabilitation “failed to comply with the requirements of the Code of Practice concerning its management and operation” and did not make improvements despite requests from the government.
The care home is not appealing the decision. The government said it will help the 79 residents affected to look for new homes.
News outlet HK01 reported on Friday that there had been at least six deaths at the troubled care home over the last eight months.
In August, a 14-year-old boy under the home’s care died after falling out of a window, but he was not taken to hospital until he was spotted by passers-by.
A resident in his 40s committed suicide earlier this year, followed by the deaths of two siblings with Down’s syndrome, according to a former employee. The unidentified employee said that the older brother died from complications after caregivers failed to clean his wounds, while the cause of the younger brother’s death was unknown.
Two residents died from choking after they were given food unsuitable for their physical conditions.
Graceful Home, the parent company of the Bridge of Rehabilitation, told Apple Daily that one of the choking incidents was not related to their staff, but was caused by the negligence of volunteers from another social welfare organisation. “So they blame it on us, but that’s fine, the Bridge of Rehabilitation is closing down anyway,” a Graceful Home staff member said.
The employee did not comment on the reports of other deaths.
Social welfare functional constituency lawmaker Shiu Ka-chun said that the government’s decisions came too late. He questioned whether the current regulatory system was effective in monitoring care homes and protecting residents, given that it took so long for the Social Welfare Department to obtain legal advice.
Shiu said that the licence removal was only the first step, and he hoped the government would work on improving the oversight system.
Sexual assault allegation
A sexual harassment scandal caused public outcry after the Department of Justice withdrew a charge of sexual assault against its former director, Cheung Kin-wah.
The 54-year-old former director was alleged to have had non-consensual sexual intercourse with a woman with moderate intellectual disability in 2014. The charge was dismissed in May after the woman was deemed unfit to testify.
Cheung then tried to recover his legal costs. Rejecting Cheung’s request, the court said that the former director might be lucky but it was “a misfortune to the victim or society.”
Cheung was also prosecuted in 2002 for molesting two mentally disabled women, but he was acquitted after the court held that the victims’ testimonies were contradictory.
He told Apple Daily that the licence removal of the care home was unrelated to the allegation against him. “It has nothing to do with me – I left two years ago, and the administration [of the home] under my watch was all fine,” Cheung said.
More than 75,000 people signed a petition urging the Social Workers Registration Board to start a disciplinary hearing against Cheung.
Concerns groups and pro-democracy politicians have urged the government to review the law to increase transparency of care home operations.
Established more than 20 years ago, the Bridge of Rehabilitation mainly served mentally disabled and ex-mentally ill people.