Hong Kong public hospitals chief Leung Pak-yin to quit when contract ends in 2019
Hospital Authority boss describes decision to leave after nine years as chief executive as ‘emotional and difficult’
The head of Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority will leave the organisation, which has been rocked by a series of recent blunders, when his contract ends next year.
Dr Leung Pak-yin, who turns 60 next year, described his decision to leave after nine years as chief executive as “emotional and difficult”. In a letter to his 76,000 staff on Thursday, Leung said his more than a decade at the authority, which runs the city’s public hospitals, was “the most glorious page” in his life.
Leung, the authority’s longest-serving boss, would leave the post at well below the government’s retirement age of 65. Before taking up the top job in 2010, Leung was the authority’s first director for quality and safety, a position created to reduce blunders and untoward incidents.
News of his departure came with the authority having received a budget of HK$61 billion (US$7.7 billion) this financial year, an 11 per cent rise on last year, and a government commitment to push on with the second 10-year development plan to improve ageing hospital facilities.
“Leaving the HA is an emotional and difficult decision for me,” Leung wrote. “I am excited to be able to start a new chapter of my life soon, but undoubtedly feel sad to say goodbye to this big family.”
Recent incidents the authority has faced include the case of a brain going missing after an autopsy at North District Hospital.
On top of that, Secretary for Food and Health Sophia Chan Siu-chee announced a probe into a suspected medical blunder at United Christian Hospital that left a 15-year-old girl half-paralysed after one of her arteries was wrongly pierced during a medical procedure.
As deputy director of health in 2004, Leung became the first controller of the Department of Health’s Centre for Health Protection, which was set up as a response to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak the previous year. He was seconded to the authority in 2007.
Leung said he was honoured to have served as chief executive of these “strong, dedicated teams”.
“We have overcome many challenges and difficulties over the years, and notwithstanding the numerous rough days and nights, we have upheld our resolve and efforts, which ultimately enabled positive changes and enhancements.”
Authority chairman John Leong Chi-yan paid tribute to Leung’s dedication and commitment, which were “pivotal to the continuous enhancements of Hong Kong’s public health care system”.
Patients’ rights advocate Tim Pang Hung-cheong also had good things to say about Leung’s leadership.
“He respects and attaches importance to patients’ opinions,” Pang said, adding that Leung had regularly met representatives from various groups to get their views.
Pang also said that a reporting mechanism on medical blunders introduced after Leung joined the authority had restored city residents’ confidence in public health care services.
But he said Leung could have done more to include patients’ voices on more issues such as the mechanism for introducing drugs.
Dr Mak Siu-king, president of the Hong Kong Public Doctors’ Association, described Leung as a “listener”.
“He can be found when we want to discuss an issue with him,” Mak said, adding that Leung would follow up on matters which were raised by frontline medics.
Mak hoped Leung’s successor would be familiar with the operations of the city’s public health care system and continue to listen to frontline staff.
Leung’s contract ends in November next year.
The authority is a statutory body responsible for managing Hong Kong’s 43 public hospitals and institutions, 48 specialist outpatient clinics and 73 general outpatient clinics providing a total of 28,329 beds.
Additional reporting by Elizabeth Cheung