The incoming government needs to tackle the manpower shortage and long waiting times for specialist services at public hospitals, says a hotly tipped candidate for the next health minister. Dr Ko Wing-man, a former senior Hospital Authority official, pointed to the imbalance of services provided by public and private hospitals. 'As a private practitioner I am aware of' the increasing waiting time for specialist clinical services at public hospitals and a tension in manpower resources,' he told a radio programme yesterday. The problems might be due to an increasing wasting of resources or a turnover of medical workers, he said, suggesting the next government tackle the issues. Ko, who resigned from the authority in the aftermath of the Sars outbreak, declined to comment on whether he would succeed Dr York Chow Yat-ngok. During his campaign, chief executive-elect Leung Chun-ying proposed an overall review of the 'management and staff systems, working hours, cost benefits and service levels' of the authority in order to respond to changes in society, such as an ageing population. But Ko said he did not expect a 'big shock' to the health care system. He also said it would be important to maintain balanced development of the dual system of public-private health care. 'On the one hand, we should improve the service quality provided by public hospitals. On the other hand, we should continue to facilitate the development of the private insurance market and the co-operation between the public and private medical sectors,' Ko said. Executive councillor Leong Che-hung, a former legislator for the medical sector, said the imbalance had been a long-standing problem. 'Ninety per cent of patients receive medical services at public hospitals,' Leong said. 'We should find a way to strive for a balance in the long run in order to shorten the waiting time at public hospitals. That would benefit the operation of private hospitals as well.' He declined to say whether he would stay as executive councillor.