PETALING JAYA: Old folks home operators who provide inadequate living quarters for senior citizens will bear the full brunt of a new law which will introduce fines or jail terms to offenders.
The proposed Aged Healthcare Act aims to elevate standards of elderly care in Malaysia where there is no clear law on this so far.
Overly crammed living spaces, insufficient caregivers for residents and being ill-equipped are among examples of non-compliance under the proposed law and its regulations.
However, the details of the proposed Act are still being fine-tuned before it can be tabled in Parliament.
Health Ministry deputy director-general Datuk Dr Jeyaindran Sinnadurai said the Bill would be tabled next year.
“This new Act needs to be introduced as Malaysia transforms into a developed nation and to be in line with the standards of the rest of the world.
“The proposed law will set norms and practices for old folks homes and nursing homes to ensure living conditions are up to the mark,” he told the Sunday Star.
Dr Jeyaindran said homes would also have to apply for licences to run their services, be it for fully dependent, semi-dependent, independent residents or a mix of the categories.
“We will give time for operators to comply with the Act after it is enforced,” he said, adding that it would be about one to two years.
It was reported that the ministry was planning for an Act to standardise regulations for senior citizen care centres.
While the Care Centres Act and Private Healthcare Facilities and Services Act are in place, certain areas had not been addressed when it came to long term care.
Dr Jeyaindran said introducing the law was part of the Government’s initiatives to address Malaysia’s impending aging society by 2030, when those aged 60 and above would make up more than 15% of the population.
“The ministry is also discussing how to make public places and the environment suitable for an aging population.
“For example, some countries like Singapore have extended the walking time to cross the street so that the elderly can get across safely.
“As people age, their ability to move is slower,” he said.
“Malaysia also has to start looking into such aspects,” he said, adding that roadside pavements should also be elderly-friendly.
Old folks home operator, My Aged Care Sdn Bhd general manager Dadhyanna Tan urged the Government to divulge more details on the proposed law so that those who run homes could have more time to prepare when the Act kicks in.
“Most of us are in the dark about it. The proposed Act should be made available to existing operators. Those who can meet the requirements should do it immediately,” she said.
National Council of Senior Citizens Organisations president Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh said the council was concerned with certain provisions in the proposed Act.
“Most care centres at the moment are just providing board and shelter.
“They will not qualify to be registered under this Act,” he said.
Social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said it was a must to provide a congenial and friendly environment for senior citizens at such centres so that they would not be stressed out living in unpleasant conditions in their golden years.
“The overcrowding of homes can also lead to the spread of health problems.
“If an Act can ensure such homes will have proper standards, then it will serve the interest of senior citizens well,” he said.
Lee said the proposed law should ensure residents were given proper attention and care, including their medical needs.