A high demand for public health care is one of the biggest challenges confronting Hong Kong’s service providers, the city’s next hospital chief said on Thursday. From August 1, 2019, geriatrician Dr Tony Ko Pat-sing will serve as the next chief executive of the Hospital Authority, which runs the city’s public hospitals. Geriatrician Tony Ko Pat-sing approved to head Hospital Authority Ko, who has been the authority’s director of cluster services since April this year, is to hold the position for three years, according to a government announcement. Caring for some 90 per cent of the city’s inpatients yet employing just 40 per cent of its doctors, public hospitals have long battled a chronic shortage of staff and increasing demand for service. My colleagues have high expectation of this job Dr Tony Ko, Hospital Authority Ko vowed to take his new responsibilities seriously and singled out high patient demand, reducing the rate of staff turnover and improving the quality of service as among the major challenges before the authority. “I would not dare treat this lightly as the public and my colleagues have high expectation of this job.” Conceding that waiting times for specialist services were “not ideal”, Ko said the authority had been addressing the issue by adopting measures such as a triage system to set priorities for treatment and optimising resources. Other challenges he mentioned related to an ageing population and chronic diseases the city is facing. With respect to reducing the high rate of staff turnover, Ko hoped to lure more professionals by enhancing work environments in the system and providing additional training opportunities with the government’s financial support. The outgoing chief executive, Dr Leung Pak-yin, retires next year and called Ko “a very suitable choice”, praising his successor’s extensive management experience. Leung recalled first meeting Ko in 2008, when the geriatrician worked as chief manager at the authority focusing on service planning and general management. He expected his successor to continue being farsighted and extending more opportunities to young doctors. Hong Kong carers have a ‘high risk’ of health problems, survey finds The authority’s chairman, Professor John Leong Chi-yan, said Ko’s appointment had been endorsed by its board and approved by the chief executive. Ko was appointed following a wide-ranging global search carried out by a recruitment firm, Leong noted, and after thorough deliberation by a selection board that included himself and the head of the Food and Health Bureau or her representative. Should Hong Kong follow Singapore’s example on public health? The board members also spoke highly of Ko, Leong added, saying they described him as possessing frontline management experience and good communication skills, capable of listening to different stakeholders. 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.