Belfast Telegraph

Tributes as former health chief dies at 66

William McKee 'put together' Belfast Trust when it became largest in UK, says ex-health minister

By Allan Preston

The former head of the Belfast Health Trust has been recalled as a "first class professional" following his death at the age of 66.

William McKee CBE died peacefully on Wednesday.

He was chief executive of the Royal Hospitals for over a decade before taking the top job at the Belfast Health Trust.

A death notice described him as the “dearly loved husband of Ursula and proud father of Catherine and William, brother of James, Janet and Susan, nephew of Lindsey and Amelia.”

The Belfast Health Trust said: “We were deeply saddened to learn of the death of our esteemed former chief executive, William McKee CBE, and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family at this terribly sad time.”

Tributes were also paid by former Health Minister Michael McGimpsey and Richard Pengelly, the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Health, who said Mr McKee’s dedication to the health service was “immeasurable”.

Mr McKee, who was born in Belfast, studied at Queen’s University and received an MBA from Ulster University.

Pursuing a career in the health service, he held senior positions at various hospitals including Daisy Hill in Newry and Musgrave Park in Belfast.

From 1992 until 2006 he was the chief executive of the Royal Hospitals before taking the same role in the then newly-formed Belfast Trust. This saw the merger of six Belfast trusts.

He received his CBE in 2006 for services to health in Northern Ireland.

His role at the head of the Belfast Trust also saw him deal with divisive issues such as funding cuts to frontline services.

After his retirement, he admitted the trust had failed families over the hyponatraemia scandal, which saw five children die.

Mr McGimpsey, who was health minister from 2007 to 2011, said he would remember Mr McKee as “very competent, very efficient and very capable”.

“He took over Belfast when it became the largest health trust in the UK and put it together,” he added.

“I can say that throughout his tenure, with waiting times and various targets, he delivered exactly where he should have been.

“It was a tremendous service to a very high standard and I’m very sorry at the news that he’s passed away.

“I would pass on my deepest sympathy to his wife and family.”

Mr Pengelly said: “His influence and contributions to health and social care over a number of years was invaluable and he will be greatly missed.”

A celebration of Mr McKee’s life will be held on Monday at 1.30pm in Ravenhill Funeral Service, Belfast, followed by a private cremation.

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