Hospital Authority chief executive William Ho Shiu-wei will step down after his contract ends in September, with sources saying his departure is due in part to discord with health minister York Chow Yat-ngok. Dr Ho, head of the 52,000-strong body since 1999, will be appointed as the authority's senior consultant in community medicine when his second three-year contract ends on September 20. He will face a sizeable pay cut - from $4.5 million to about $3 million. Speaking after an authority board meeting yesterday, Dr Ho said he had once thought of resigning after the Sars outbreak in 2003. But he decided to carry on to 'rebuild the team and the morale' and complete his contract. 'The authority has passed the most difficult six years and walked out of the sorrow after Sars. I have accomplished my work ... and I started to think what I should do next,' he said. Praising Dr Ho's achievements, board chairman Anthony Wu Ting-yuk said he had been told of Dr Ho's decision in March. 'Since March, I have been lobbying him to stay on. I told him we needed him most.' Dr Ho will remain in the post until the authority finds a new head through a global search. Although Dr Ho yesterday denied a poor relationship with Dr Chow, sources said they had been 'incompatible' with each other. Dr Ho was once Dr Chow's boss before the latter became secretary for health, welfare and food last year. In 1999, Dr Chow was in the running to succeed Yeoh Eng-kiong as Hospital Authority chief executive but was passed over in favour of Dr Ho, a relatively junior colleague. Dr Ho, who was then the chief executive of Kwong Wah Hospital, was a close aide to Dr Yeoh. One source said: 'They cannot get along well with each other, it is an open secret. It is not easy to find someone to take up the job.' Last month, Dr Ho warned that the authority's accumulated deficit could reach $7.3 billion in four years. But the source said: 'Some officials found he was embarrassing the government. Many other government departments are facing financial stress, not only the authority.' Recently elected president of the College of Community Medicine, under the Academy of Medicine, Dr Ho said yesterday he hoped to contribute more to the training of specialists. Dr Chow said in a statement yesterday that he regretted Dr Ho's decision. 'In the past six years, Dr Ho has led the Hospital Authority management in initiating structural and human resources reform, and in courageously rising up to the challenges of new infectious diseases and has made valuable contributions in this regard,' he said. But board member and medical sector lawmaker Kwok Ka-ki said: 'The misfortune for him [Dr Ho] is that he used to work under a very strong and influential government official, Yeoh Eng-kiong.'