When Robin Swann took the job of Health Minister in January, it was difficult to imagine he could face a greater challenge than addressing Northern Ireland's hospital waiting list shame.
In fact, with no end of seemingly insurmountable problems, the health portfolio has long been regarded as a poisoned chalice, so it seemed almost foolhardy when the UUP handed the job to someone with a background in agriculture.
However, Mr Swann hit the ground running and his first success was to quickly reach a deal with employees over pay and conditions, bringing an end to crippling strike action by thousands of NHS staff.
There were optimistic whisperings that, despite his relative inexperience in the world of health, he may be the person to turn around the ailing NHS.
Yet, within a matter of weeks, Mr Swann would be responsible for steering the health service through the most devastating and difficult period it has ever endured.
With the dire prediction that 15,000 people in Northern Ireland could die from Covid-19, clinics and theatre lists were cancelled, staff were diverted and hospital wards were emptied in preparation for the onslaught.
Three months on and Northern Ireland has recorded its third consecutive day without a Covid-19 death. While this is absolutely cause for celebration, the threat posed by Covid-19 has not yet diminished entirely and the shadow of a second deadly surge looms large.
It is with this reality in mind that Mr Swann must now look to rebuild the health service in Northern Ireland. As we know, the system was already broken by the time the coronavirus pandemic hit.
In January 2016, the then health minister Simon Hamilton said "we cannot afford to stand still" as he announced an expert panel would help shape the future of the health service.
His successor, Michelle O'Neill, stressed that time was of the essence as she announced the recommendations of the panel some 10 months later.
Despite the urgency that accompanied the publication of the report, the Northern Ireland Assembly collapsed a few months later, taking with it any likelihood of the transformation so desperately needed to build a sustainable NHS.
In the intervening years, waiting times spiralled out of control and staff became so disillusioned and concerned for patient safety that they took to the picket line in the depths of winter. Add to that the effects of a global pandemic and the challenge ahead is epic - and yet, now more than ever, it is crucial that we do not return to the status quo.
Quite simply, the system could not cope with demand before Covid-19 and it will struggle even more in the months ahead.
Social distancing and the measures required to reduce the chances of staff and patients becoming infected with Covid-19 mean that crowded wards and emergency departments cannot happen.
Surgical capacity, which is vital if we are to start driving down hospital waiting lists, has been vastly reduced as precautions required to keep staff and patients safe mean fewer operations can be carried out.
At the same time, experts are predicting an explosion in GP referrals in the months ahead, while significant budgetary challenges remain and the full implications of Brexit have yet to be felt.
Meanwhile, very few of the health priorities detailed in the New Decade, New Approach document have been progressed since the Executive reformed in January. The situation is precarious to say the least. So, it was a welcome development yesterday when Mr Swann outlined his plans for how the health service should move beyond the pandemic.
The Rebuilding Health and Social Care Services Strategic Framework is heavy in detail when it comes to the effects of Covid-19 on the health service.
And it doesn't just concentrate on outpatient appointments, emergency care and elective care; it considers a range of crucial services including dentistry, pharmacy and social services.
It also explains what measures were put in place to mitigate the effects of the virus and short-term proposals to ensure the health service is ready to respond to further potential Covid-19 surges.
Virtual clinics that have become commonplace are likely to remain in place, work is continuing to ensure those most in need are prioritised for care, and pathways are being developed to make the service more efficient.
The document has been broadly welcomed by health professionals and charitable organisations who are keen to work with Mr Swann to ensure the best possible outcome for patients.
What the strategy doesn't do is repeat the recommendations made by the successive expert reports that have called for transformation and reconfiguration.
Decisions on the future of breast cancer services, emergency care and stroke services are all outstanding, while the controversial proposal for a reduction in acute hospital sites has not been addressed.
Of course, this document was only ever intended to examine the future of the health service in the immediate wake of Covid-19.
But as we move beyond the pandemic, it is essential that we seize the opportunity to make the radical changes that are needed to improve patient care.
Difficult and unpopular decisions lie ahead and, just as Mr Swann showed courage in taking the role of Health Minister, there is a feeling that he may also have the strength of character required to ensure the future of the NHS.