The chief executive of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority, William Ho, has become the fourth top health official to resign in the aftermath of Hong Kong's severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) crisis. His successor will face several challenges, not least of which is helping improve the region's response to infectious diseases like SARS and avian flu.

Speaking to reporters last Thursday, Ho, who himself fell ill with SARS during Hong Kong's outbreak in 2003, called the crisis "the most difficult time in the entire history of the Hospital Authority.'' He also admitted to having considered quitting immediately after the crisis, but said he stayed on because he felt the authority needed strong leadership.

Ho's illness during the worst of the SARS outbreak prevented him from carrying out his duties, but also saved him from some of the heavy criticism heaped on other top officials during a legislative hearing investigating...

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