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Chairman of Northern health trust sacked by Edwin Poots

By Michael McHugh

The chairman of the Northern health trust has been sacked by health minister Edwin Poots.

Edwin Poots said there were serious performance issues with emergency care at the trust and he needed to be sure the leadership team was working together to resolve the problem.

Chairman Jim Stewart has said Mr Poots was trying to victimise him after the minister threatened heads would roll if trusts did not achieve their targets.

Mr Poots branded his public comments wholly inappropriate.

"His statement was very damaging to the reputation of the Trust and confirmed that Mr Stewart does not share my view that much better performance against the 12-hour standard for A&E departments is both possible and essential in the short term," he said.

The minister has brought in a special team to help ensure the required improvement is secured.

He added: "I firmly believe that public service values must be at the core of health and social care. Non- executive members who are appointed to the boards of health and social care bodies are placed in positions of responsibility and as such must demonstrate the highest standards of corporate and personal conduct based on recognition that patients and clients always come first.

"Regrettably, in addition to a number of performance issues at the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, upon which the chair was recently challenged by my department, Mr Stewart fell short of these high standards in recent days.

"I have therefore taken all factors into account and decided that in the interests of the organisation that his position as chair should be terminated."

Mr Stewart has confirmed to the Department of Health permanent secretary Andrew McCormick that at no stage was he asked by the minister or the department to dismiss the Northern trust chief executive Sean Donaghy.

The Northern health trust has been under considerable pressure mainly due to the poor performance of the Antrim Area Hospital's accident and emergency department.

For successive winters, the hospital has experienced excessive trolley waits with regular breaches to its four and 12-hour targets.

According to the Trust's website, Mr Stewart is a former non-executive director of the Eastern Health and Social Services and former chairman of Greenpark Health and Social Services Trust in Belfast. He has been a non-executive in the health service since 1995.

Mr Stewart was also Chairman of Warrenpoint Harbour Authority from 2004 until 2011. In 2009 he was awarded the CBE for his contribution to the ports industry in Northern Ireland. He was also a previous board member of LEDU jobs creation agency, the Northern Ireland Quality Centre and the Dairy Council.

In private industry Mr Stewart previously worked for the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Greece, Italy and Turkey and for Golden Vale and Richardson's Fertilizer in Northern Ireland.

He is managing director of Training Solutions (NI) Limited which provides training and management development for public and private sector organisations.

He is also chairman of Sentinus, a registered charity promoting training in science, technology, engineering and mathematics in schools in Northern Ireland, and is a non-executive director of Northern Ireland Water.

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