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Iron bars turned home into jail

ELDERLY people are being treated like prisoners and not residents at a nursing home in Jilin Province, it was claimed yesterday.

At one home, iron bars had been installed to seal off the windows, the Changchun-based East Asia Economy and Trade News reported.

At the seniors home, identified as Tianyi in Binghe community in Changchun City, Jilin's capital, residents were also locked in their rooms to prevent them getting out and wandering off, the report said.

All the windows were sealed with steel bars, blocking escape routes for residents in the event of a fire.

Each of four, 10-square-meter rooms in a separate unit leased to the nursing home had three beds with elderly people lying or sitting on them, in contrast to the national requirement of 5 square meters of living space for each resident.

The nursing home also promised to offer its residents meat-stuffed buns and dumplings as well as chicken and fish every week, the newspaper said.

However, residents complained they were fed noodles boiled in water every day while potato steamed with chicken bones once a week was their only delicacy.

A man working in the kitchen beside a bowl of blackened potato slices told the newspaper they charged each senior 650 yuan (US$95) a month and most could look after themselves for at least part of the day. With only two nurses, the nursing home was responsible for the care of 39 residents.

Sun Shufang, the boss, said food at her nursing home was the best, compared to others around the community. She said she couldn't take responsibility for residents who strayed away from the home and got lost.

She refused to comment on any fire risks as a result of the windows being fitted with iron bars.

She said her nursing home was properly certified by the government.

However, the newspaper heard claims that it was operating on a business license only, and lacked all of the other necessary paperwork, including fire-safety and quarantine certificates.

The situation was said to be similar in other nursing homes, mostly privately operated, in the provincial capital city. The newspaper reported claims of overcrowding, poor living conditions and unsatisfactory sanitation management. They were also unsafe as there were no proper fire escapes, one resident complained to the newspaper.

"Life at these nursing homes is not enjoyment but suffering," Chen Yonghe, 56, said. Some seniors were even being abused, he added.

Chen, a retired police officer, became semi-paralyzed years ago.

He had tried several nursing homes in the area and knew the situation well and he had decided to report the "inhuman treatment" he and other citizens had experienced.

He said there were eight nursing homes in business in the Binghe community, and some of them were operating without a license.


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