The Hospital Authority will have to accept further budget cuts next year if the government wants to slash spending by almost $4 billion, according to incoming chairman Leong Che-hung. 'If the government is cutting across the board, the Health, Welfare and Food Bureau will be affected. On that score, I think the Hospital Authority will be affected, too,' Dr Leong said. The government indicated on Monday it would cut its recurrent expenditure of $210 billion by 1.8 per cent, or $3.78 billion, next financial year to make up for a $3 billion shortfall in savings that had been expected from the cut in civil service pay. 'Obviously cutting budgets would make everything difficult but under this economic climate we have got to do our best with whatever we are given and I will make sure that medical standards will not in any way be compromised,' said Dr Leong, who will take over as chairman of the authority next month. He said the authority would find ways to boost co-operation with the private sector and aim at 'targeted subsidies' to maximise efficiency. The government spent $32.4 billion on health this fiscal year, or 15.8 per cent of the total recurrent budget. Of this, the authority received $29.8 billion and the rest went to the Health Department. Dr Leong, who is also chairman of the Society for the Promotion of Hospice Care, yesterday opened a counselling centre run by the society in Central. He said two training courses on hospice care and bereavement counselling would be launched jointly with the Vocational Training Council in November. Society executive director Yvonne Siu Sun said the courses would cater for home carers and professionals.