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A nurse changes a patient"s dressing at her home in Henan province, on May 24, 2013. [Photo/IC]

Newly released standards set criteria for judging quality of their services

Nursing homes in China will have the option of being graded on the quality of their services, under a national standard released on Monday that aims to improve elderly people"s access to quality services.

The standard includes detailed regulations on the evaluation of eldercare organizations. A grading system will improve transparency and help the elderly choose suitable organizations, Chen Hongjun, deputy chief for standardization at the State Administration for Market Regulation, said at a news conference.

Li Banghua, an official for senior affairs at the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said that with the new standard, nursing homes can be rated in a way similar to hotels, but the grading is voluntary and nursing home operators must apply to the authorities to be graded.

The standard was drafted by the Ministry of Civil Affairs and Beijing Normal University"s China Philanthropy Research Institute. It takes effect on July 1. Its release comes at a time of rapid population aging in China, with higher demand for senior care services expected over the next few decades.

Nursing homes will be divided into five grades, with Grade 5 - marked with five stars - representing the highest level. Such facilities have the best environments, equipment and management, and can provide the best services.

Grades will be valid for three years, and an application for review will be required to extend the certification.

All nursing homes must meet basic requirements such as having a fire-safety certificate, certified doctors and barrier-free facilities, under the standard. The size of a room with a single bed should be no smaller than 10 square meters, and bedrooms and bathrooms should be equipped with emergency call systems. Alternatively, seniors may be given wearable emergency call equipment.

All nursing homes should sign a service contract with every senior to be admitted, establish health records for each resident and organize at least one health check and at least two entertainment activities per year.

Grade 1 nursing homes should have at least 30 percent of their beds occupied and provide services including routine daily care, catering, cleaning, medical care, entertainment and hospice.

Grade 5 nursing homes should have at least half their beds occupied and provide more services, including rehabilitation, education and door-to-door service. The number of beds in each room for seriously disabled elderly patients should not exceed six.

Li, of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said the standard will protect the interests of seniors who choose nursing home services and promote high-quality development of the sector.

"With accelerating population aging in China, demand for nursing services will continue to increase, and more nursing homes will be needed," he said. "Right now, there are generally enough nursing homes, but many cannot offer quality services - those in rural areas, for example - and cannot meet the needs of seniors."

Authorities will take more steps to help nursing homes improve the quality of their services, focusing on the needs of the disabled, he said.

The number of people 65 years old or above reached 167 million as of the end of last year on the Chinese mainland - an increase of 35 million over 2013. They account for 12 percent of the population, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.