Former Health Department official Dr Leung Pak-yin is in line to succeed Shane Solomon as chief executive of the Hospital Authority. Leung, the authority's director of quality and safety, faces the dual challenge of reversing a brain drain of health care staff and cutting waiting times for medical services in his three-year term. The selection panel chose him after a tight race with the only other candidate, authority cluster services director Dr Cheung Wai-lun. Leung's appointment is expected to be made formal early next month pending approval by the authority's board and Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, according to people familiar with the situation. The post at the head of 58,000 medical professionals and other staff comes with a salary package of more than HK$4 million a year. A public health specialist, Leung, 51, is a former deputy director of health and was the founding controller of the Centre for Health Protection, set up after the Sars crisis. He was once tipped to succeed Dr Lam Ping-yan as director of health. An authority board member said Leung was the right choice because he had good communication skills. 'The authority's chief executive is a political position. He has to get support from the Legislative Council and the government, so having a good network and communication skills are very important.' The new chief executive will face a series of difficult tasks, including cutting waiting times for medical services, and stopping a brain drain of doctors and nurses. The authority says the turnover of doctors, nurses and allied health professionals is heading for record highs. The turnover for doctors will jump from 4.4 per cent in 2009-10 to 6.8 per cent this year; nurses from 4.1 per cent to 5.3 per cent; and allied health staff from 2.3 to 3.5 per cent. 'Although the government has committed new funding to the authority, public hospitals have difficulties in finding new manpower to support their services, it is a big headache facing the new chief executive,' a person familiar with Leung's appointment said. 'Doctors quit when the private sector is booming but the authority cannot immediately offer a pay rise for their doctors.' Public Doctors' Association president Dr Loletta So Kit-ying called on the new leadership to improve doctors' working conditions. 'One of the pressing issues is retaining talent. The working conditions for public doctors are still very poor. They have to see more than 10 patients in an hour at outpatient clinics and some colleagues do not even have their own work desks and computers.' Former association president Dr Ho Pak-leung said Leung showed good leadership skills when he headed the Centre for Health Protection. A senior hospital executive said it was good to have an 'outsider' - referring to the fact that Leung has only been with the authority for three years - to be the chief executive. Rival candidate Cheung had long experience as a hospital administrator with the authority before he was promoted to his present position as a director. 'Like Shane [Solomon], an outsider can bring us some new ideas,' the hospital executive said. 'The authority is such a big organisation, there are many people experienced in the operation of hospitals to support the chief executive. It is an exercise in teamwork. 'It is also good that we have a local person to take up the post this time. Shane was good but there was a language barrier between him and the frontline staff.' The authority is Hong Kong's biggest public body. It runs more than 40 public hospitals and has an annual budget of more HK$30 billion. The selection panel was chaired by the authority's chairman, Anthony Wu Ting-yuk. Members included senior board members and Secretary for Food and Health Dr York Chow Yat-ngok.