The chief executive of the beleaguered Northern Health Trust is stepping aside as part of a shake-up launched after long waiting times for emergency care were recorded, it was revealed.
Sean Donaghy is taking up a new post within the NHS in Northern Ireland and the health minister has appointed two senior executives to the Trust: nursing expert Mary Hinds, who will try to improve the record at Antrim and Causeway Hospitals, and Paul Cummings, who will oversee corporate management.
The Trust has faced criticism over long waiting times for emergency treatment, with regular breaches to its four and 12-hour targets.
Health Minister Edwin Poots said today's move, mutually agreed with Mr Donaghy, was aimed at enhancing leadership in a high priority area.
Mr Donaghy said: "I am confident that the new team will have the support of all in the Trust in seeking to resolve the difficulties it has faced over many years.
"I believe they will benefit from the work that I and my colleagues in the Trust have been doing in difficult circumstances over my time in the Trust.
"The staff are rightly proud of the services throughout the Trust and I want to acknowledge their clear commitment to improving emergency care waiting times for the benefit of patients."
The Northern Trust has come under fire for breaches to its emergency care waiting time targets. Last year the chairman of the Trust, Jim Stewart, was sacked by the minister, the first time that a senior health manager has been removed from his post.
For successive winters, Antrim Area hospital experienced excessive trolley waits for emergency care. Mr Stewart said the A&E department was too small and dealing with double the number of people it was originally built for.
Another senior figure, interim medical director Dr Peter Flanagan intends to retire, it was announced today, but will take over a temporary role until a permanent replacement is appointed.
Mr Donaghy will become a regional director at the Health and Social Care Board, which commissions services in Northern Ireland.
Mr Poots recognised the personal commitment he had brought in his time as Trust chief executive and the efforts he made to secure improvements.
The appointments were made following emerging findings from the Turnaround and Support Team which was appointed by the minister last year to help the Trust improve performance. It was established because of the minister's concerns, particularly about the lack of sufficient improvement in emergency department waiting times.
Mary Hinds will become senior director of the improvement effort while Mr Cummings will be senior director of corporate management.
Mr Poots said: "These appointments are being made as part of a programme of intensive support that will be provided to the Trust to ensure the necessary turnaround is achieved in the interests of patient care.
"My overriding concern is to ensure that the Trust can meet the needs of the population it serves and can provide acceptable experiences for patients, safe, high quality services, and a resolution of the problem of long waiting in the emergency department."
He added: "I remain committed to avoiding long waits at all the emergency departments in Northern Ireland. I believe that Mary Hinds and Paul Cummings together have the skills necessary to deliver the changes required at the Trust and I am confident that they will ensure significant improvements are made."