The quality and efficiency of the city's public hospitals will be subject to the scrutiny of a government-led panel which will hold its first meeting in September, the health minister announced yesterday. The panel's purpose was to ensure the city's public healthcare service was sustainable and could meet the increasing demands of its ageing population, Secretary for Food and Health Dr Ko Wing-man said. It will be a big challenge for public hospitals to keep pace with demand when they are understaffed. I hope there will be a review of the problem in the short term, as this will be the biggest concern for patients One panel member, Patients' Rights Association spokesman Tim Pang Hung-cheong, hoped the 20-person panel would come up with quick measures to address the shortage of doctors. "It will be a big challenge for public hospitals to keep pace with demand when they are understaffed," Pang said. "I hope there will be a review of the problem in the short term, as this will be the biggest concern for patients." The Hospital Authority is short of at least 200 doctors. Pang expected the panel would take at least a year to draw up a reform plan for the authority. Announcing the move, Ko said the review group would cover the authority's management and cluster arrangements, resource allocation, service levels and overall cost effectiveness. The panel, which will be chaired by Ko, consists of 12 non-official members, five official members and two representatives from the authority. Nonofficial members are from a range of backgrounds including healthcare and academia. But the Medical Association and Public Doctors' Association and three other doctors' groups, issued a statement last night saying the panel lacked representation from frontline practitioners. They urged the bureau to appoint a person who could represent them.