Open University chief John Leong Chi-yan named as new Hospital Authority chairman

Open University president John Leong replaces accountant Anthony Wu

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 October, 2013, 4:22pm

The president of the Open University, a doctor by profession, has been appointed chairman of the Hospital Authority to replace nine-year veteran Anthony Wu Ting-yuk.

John Leong Chi-yan, 71, will in December succeed the accountancy-trained Wu, 59, who has led the public medical sector since 2004, the government said yesterday. The change comes as the government starts a review of the authority, including its management and resources allocation. Wu has identified the manpower shortage as a problem he failed to solve.

A discussion about possible candidates had dragged on for months as the administration was split by different views, a source said.

Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had favoured executive councillor and former Chinese University vice chancellor Professor Arthur Li Kwok-cheung, while Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man preferred Leong, the source said.

"Ko disagreed with appointing Li because he was not comfortable with Li's domineering style. Eventually the chief executive heeded the health minister's views," the source said.

Leong was dean of medicine at the University of Hong Kong, teaching for 38 years, before he moved to lead the Open University. He also practised at Queen Mary Hospital in Pok Fu Lam. He was chosen as the most suitable among several candidates, a bureau spokesman said.

"I believe that with my deep knowledge in the structure and operations of Hong Kong's public medical sector, I can contribute in this area," Leong said. "As for issues such as long waiting times and the lack of beds, these I can comment on only after I take part in the review committee."

His elder brother Leong Che-hung, who once headed the authority himself, called the appointment "fantastic". He identified financing of the medical system as the first and foremost challenge for the new chairman. "The resources are limited but the demands are unlimited."

Age would not be a problem, he said. "[John] has never had any specific health issues. Age is just a number."

However, lawmaker Dr Kwok Ka-ki said Leong's age meant he would not be in the position for long and could not be expected to bring about any reform. Leong's term will be for two years.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Leung Ka-lau urged the new chief to outline his vision.

"I have never heard his views about the public medical sector," Leung said. "He should brief all the stakeholders soon."

Leung said the authority's biggest problems were the uneven allocation of resources and government-imposed constraints.

Both Public Doctors' Association president Dr Kenneth Fu Kam-fung and Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong said Leong was a good choice because of his experience in medicine and public administration.

After taking up the position in December, Leong will continue to preside over the Open University until April, when Professor Wong Yuk-shan takes over.

Fu thanked Wu for his contributions, saying that although he was not a medical professional, he had always gone to the front line to understand their work. Wu said: "I can never forget how we sailed through the rough waters together with the unwavering support of a visionary board and a dedicated workforce."