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Hong Kong health care and hospitals

Geriatrician Tony Ko Pat-sing approved to be next head of Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority

  • Currently the authority’s director of cluster services, Ko will replace Leung Pak-yin when he steps down next year
  • Choice of a geriatrician could be related to the challenges of an ageing population the authority faces
PUBLISHED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 8:55pm
UPDATED : Monday, 29 October, 2018, 10:17pm

Geriatrician Tony Ko Pat-sing is expected be the next chief executive of the Hospital Authority, which runs all Hong Kong’s public hospitals, after current head Dr Leung Pak-yin, retires next year.

Two sources from the authority confirmed to the Post that its board met last Thursday and endorsed appointing Ko, in his early 50s, to the top job. Leung, 59, is expected to step down in the middle of the year although his contract only ends next November.

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Ko’s appointment will need the approval of Hong Kong’s chief executive, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, according to one of the sources, who also said there were local and foreign candidates in the running for the job.

While reasons for appointing Ko have not been disclosed, his speciality in geriatric medicine is apparently relevant to the problems facing the city’s public health care system.

Tackling the city’s ageing population has become a daunting task for Hong Kong as the number of Hongkongers aged 80 or above has increased by 67 per cent to more than 340,000, taking up a bigger proportion of the city’s total population compared to a decade ago, according to the Census and Statistics Department.

Before taking up his current role with the authority, Ko had been the chief executive of the New Territories West group of public hospitals, as well as the chief executive of Tuen Mun Hospital, from July 2014 to March this year.

Dr Seamus Siu Yuk-leung, vice-chairman of Frontline Doctors’ Union, said Ko gave him an impression as a person willing to communicate.

“He is willing to share his thoughts, for example the difficulties he faces or why he did or did not make a certain decision,” Siu said.

Siu hoped that Ko’s expertise in geriatrics could help tackle the challenges presented by an ageing population.

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“I hope he will have a better communication with members of the Executive Council … so the authority can [improve its service] and handle problems associated with the ageing population,” Siu said.

Medical sector lawmaker Dr Pierre Chan said he had no doubt of Ko’s competence as Ko had been in senior management roles for some time. But he said he did not have a strong impression of Ko, whom he described as a relatively low profile person.

Leung, who turns 60 next year, said in April that his decision to leave after nine years as chief executive as “emotional and difficult”. In a letter to his 76,000 staff, Leung said his time at the authority, which runs the city’s public hospitals, was “the most glorious chapter” in his life.

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.

When it was announced that Leung was stepping down, the authority said that, though his tenure would end in November next year, he would be using up his outstanding leave allowance before departing, which meant his last day of duty is expected to be in July.

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.