Dying In Nursing Homes Is Cheaper Than In Hospitals, Study Finds

Hospital bed
(Photo: Wikimedia)

A study has found that, in Hong Kong, it's cheaper to die in nursing homes rather than in hospitals. The head of the Elderly Commission suggested that officials should consider offering more support for end-of-life care in residential homes.

The Haven of Hope Christian Service conducted the study, in which they looked at the cost incurred and time spent in hospitals during the final year of 169 elderly people. The participants stayed in the nursing home organization in Tseung Kwan O between 2010 and last year.

Among the elderlies, 58 have joined the scheme which was offered by the home that allows them to die there, while the other 111 participants chose not to join and died in hospital.

The study has found those who joined the scheme had a 17 percent (HK$66,080) median total of end-of-life care costs, which is less than for those who did not join. The study authors noted that of elderly people would choose to spend their last days in nursing homes; then, the government would likely save more than HK$340 million on end-of-life care every year.

Dr. Lam Ching-choi, the CEO Haven of Hope Christian Service who heads Hong Kong's Elderly Commission and sits on the Executive Council, said medical costs of those who are dying in nursing homes were lower as there are fewer days spent in the hospital.

"With the support of a [multidisciplinary] team and the consent of a patient's family to not resuscitate a person, the patient can stay in a nursing home to receive care," Dr. Lam explained. "As the cost in hospital is much higher than that of a nursing home, such differences could lead to reduced use of resources."

He further added that it's hard for the majority of Hongkongers to die in the way they want, considering there's 93 percent of deaths in the city occurring in hospitals. Many people wanted to die peacefully in a tranquil environment, he said, but that's not easy in Hong Kong.

Moreover, Lam added, lots of care home in Hong Kong were not designed to give particular medical care for patients who are dying. The government could likely consider giving more money to supporting end-of-life care services in nursing homes.

"More resources could be added to those nursing homes to hire more doctors and nurses, and offer end-of-life care training to those medical staff," he said.

Meanwhile, according to the South China Morning Post, a spokesman for the Food and Health Bureau stated said the government had already set out in its agenda's policy last year to "consider formulating a more robust policy and legislative framework to facilitate end-of-life care planning and the provision of palliative care outside hospital settings."

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