Public hospitals will increasingly link up with private firms to provide better care amid tightening budgets, the Hospital Authority chairman has said. The comment by Leong Che-hung followed yesterday's opening at the Prince of Wales Hospital of the Qualigenics Centre, the SAR's first public-private diabetes facility. It is the result of a partnership between the Chinese University's medical faculty and GenRx, a subsidiary of developer Hong Kong Resorts International. Dr Leong said that 12 to 15 per cent of health care funds were spent on treating diabetes and its complications. He welcomed such private-public partnerships, which he said the authority was also looking at as a way of the future. Speaking in favour of the Qualigenics partnership, Chinese University professors said public hospitals were being swamped by patients suffering from diabetic complications. The World Health Organisation has called diabetes 'the worst epidemic in the history of the human race', with about 200 million already sick and the number projected to double in the next 25 years. About 300 million more are classified as pre-diabetic, with high glucose intolerance, of whom 13 per cent would become diabetic each year. Peter Tong Chun-yip, associate professor of the university's division of endocrinology, said: 'In Hong Kong, one out of 10 people - or about 500,000 to 600,000 - are diabetic, with more than half of them undiagnosed. Up to 40 per cent of them die or develop stroke, heart or kidney disease in 10 years.' Professor Clive Cockram, head of the university's diabetes division, said it was because of the overwhelmed services at Prince of Wales Hospital that the university had joined forces with GenRx.