University experts have proposed that they be allowed to jointly run the government's planned Centre for Health Protection, putting their expertise to use in controlling the outbreak of diseases. The Department of Health is in the process of developing the centre, which was proposed by the government's Sars expert committee. The department has started the recruitment process, hunting for field epidemiologists and a virologist at salaries in the $1 million to $1.3 million range, including housing allowances. The expert committee said in its report that the Sars epidemic had exposed weakness in the health system, such as shortcomings in surveillance, organisational co-ordination and deficiencies in specialist expertise in field epidemiology. The Hospital Authority's review panel on the Sars outbreak said officials failed to assemble all available surveillance data and to paint a full picture of the situation in late February. That led to hospital staff not taking precautions, and could have contributed to the spread at Prince of Wales Hospital. The University of Hong Kong's medical faculty has proposed to the government that its experts be involved in running the Centre for Health Protection. The university's associate dean of medicine, Raymond Liang Hin-suen, said one option was to have shared appointments to key positions at the centre, such as epidemiologists and microbiologists. 'We should break the barrier and share expertise and resources. We are sure that if the government agrees with these principles, details on work and time-sharing of the posts can be fixed,' he said. 'We have not submitted any formal proposal to the department yet but we have exchanged ideas with the Director of Health [Lam Ping-yan] and the response is very positive.' He said the university doctors, for example, had long, successful work relations with doctors at the Queen Mary Hospital, the university's teaching hospital. Professor Liang said the university had no desire to monopolise co-operation with the government. 'The centre should have input from different universities and professionals,' he said. 'Infectious diseases have not been given due emphasis in the overall prevention and control [programme]. The Department of Health has not been given due support, in terms of resources and manpower, to do the work it is supposed to do.' Former director of health Lee Shiu-hung, a member of the Sars expert committee, has said the new centre should be set up entirely within the government and given enough manpower, resources and status to do its work effectively.