Bleary man sacked from health trust chief post

Jim Stewart. INLM3811-126gc
Jim Stewart. INLM3811-126gc

CBE recipient Jim Stewart has been sacked as chairman of the Northern Health Trust.

The Bleary man has become the first senior health manager to be removed from his post at a Northern Ireland trust.

The sacking follows a crisis in the trust’s accident and emergency provision, during which a number of health targets were not met.

Health Minister Edwin Poots said Mr Stewart “fell short” of standards expected of someone in his post. During that time there was a serious outbreak of the hospital superbug, C difficile, and most recently, the crisis in emergency care provision.

In response to his sacking, Mr Stewart said: “I’ve been involved the public sector for 17 years and never once had my ability or commitment questioned - and even won a CBE award for my commitment in another role - so I really don’t understand and I feel the reasons are just fabricated.”

Following the dismissal Mr Stewart accused the health minister of victimising him for his refusal to sack Sean Donaghy, the chief executive of the Northern Health Trust, over the missed targets.

While Mr Stewart acknowledges that Mr Poots did not directly ask him to sack Mr Donaghy, he said he felt under pressure to do so as the minister had told chairmen that heads would roll unless targets were met and people held to account.

In further statement, Mr Poots said the chairman’s remarks had been “very damaging to the reputation of the trust”.

The minster said: “Against a background of very serious and unresolved issues with the performance of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust on emergency care, I need to be sure that the leadership team are all working together to resolve the problem.

“Whatever may or may not have been said before Monday, December 10, it was wholly inappropriate for Mr Stewart to speak publicly as he did on Monday.”

Mr Poots said the remarks had “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”.

The minister said the vacant post of chairman would be filled “as soon as possible”.

Mr Stewart had been at the helm of the trust for almost seven years. He is also on the board of NI Water and is a former non-executive director of the Eastern Health and Social Services Board and completed a term as Chair of Greenpark Health and Social Services Trust in Belfast. He has served on the boards of LEDU, AFBI, the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Quality Centre.

He is also chairman of Sentinus, a registered charity promoting training in science, engineering and maths in schools in Northern Ireland.

Mr Stewart’s work experience also includes the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company, he was a HR Manager in Craigavon and South Africa and has been a factory manager in Greece, Italy and Turkey, he has international business experience as well as extensive public sector experience.

His qualifications include an MA in Strategic Management and a BSc (Hons) in Chemistry.

Mr Stewart was awarded a CBE in 2009 for his contribution to the Ports Industry in Northern Ireland.