Anthony Wu Ting-yuk has been appointed for a further year as Hospital Authority chairman amid talk Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying's government is suffering a recruitment crisis as it deals with a host of controversies.
Wu, who had not been expected to renew his contract when it expires in two months, is the authority's longest-serving chairman. By the end of his new term he will have filled the post for nine years.
Observers say Leung is opting for stability amid turbulence, while having difficulty finding people willing to take the heat of a government post.
"It may be the right way to keep things unchanged for a while when the government is surrounded by so many flames," Polytechnic University social scientist Chung Kim-wah said. "After all, any new person appointed may risk drawing further attacks."
A source close to the government agreed, saying Wu's reappointment was " an appropriate arrangement for the new government, especially when it is seeking stability".
Wu, once a supporter of failed chief executive candidate Henry Tang Ying-yen, had already been given a two-year extension after an initial six-year term.
Former secretary for education Dr Arthur Li Kwok-cheung was once tipped to succeed him, but public hospital doctors said they were uneasy with Li's "heavy handed" leadership style.
"Both Wu and Li have their supporters and opposers, but I guess Li may draw comparatively more concern from doctors," former Public Doctors' Association president Dr Ho Pak-leung said.
Leung appointed five more members to his team yesterday, including three undersecretaries and two political assistants. But his team is still thought to be short seven under-secretaries and 13 political assistants.
Hints have been emerging that he is set to scale down the government restructuring plan that failed to reach the Legislative Council in its previous term because of lawmakers' delaying tactics.
A source familiar with the situation said earlier that Leung had already shelved the plan to create deputy posts for the chief secretary and financial secretary as a result of political pressure.
Wu said yesterday he was honoured to stay on.
"One of the priorities that the Hospital Authority needs to accomplish is to manage patient waiting times amid the challenges of an ageing population and the shortfall in medical manpower," he said.
"Certainly we will continue to find ways to improve the working conditions and environment for our staff."
The authority's chief executive, Dr Leung Pak-yin, said his management team was delighted by the reappointment.
Wu is not the first Tang backer to be reappointed by Leung. Allan Zeman, Ayesha Macpherson Lau and Tang's brother Tom Tang Chung-yen have also stayed on in various statutory bodies.