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Canberra
Sunday, June 20, 2021

Canberra Health Services chief resigns

Canberra Health Services CEO Bernadette McDonald announced today that she would resign to return to her family in Melbourne.

Ms McDonald joined Canberra Health Services as CEO in October 2018. She will remain in the position until the end of July. An interim CEO will be announced soon.

“I make this decision with a heavy heart,” Ms McDonald wrote in an email to staff today. “It has been a great privilege to lead an organisation whose very existence is about delivering exceptional health care to our community.

“While there are many more things I would love to achieve with you, now is the right time for me to choose to return to my family in Melbourne.”

Last year, travel restrictions and working in a risky setting kept her away from her husband and children for eight months. She now has to plan her daughter’s wedding, she said.

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith described Ms McDonald as an outstanding leader.

“Her calm and unwavering leadership of the clinical response to COVID-19 has been invaluable for staff and the entire Canberra community.

“Despite the long periods of time away from her family, Bernadette worked tirelessly to lead and support more than 7,000 clinical, administrative and support staff in a time of significant stress and uncertainty.”

Looking back at her time, Ms McDonald wrote: “When I arrived here in October 2018, as Canberra Health Services became a stand-alone organisation, I found a health service blessed with many wonderful and talented people, but one that needed a new direction.

“Together we set about building the foundations of a health service we could all be proud of.”

The Minister praised Ms McDonald for leading Canberra Health Services through a significant period of transition with compassion and dedication. She was instrumental in planning the Canberra Hospital Expansion, the Digital Health Record, and in implementing the Culture Review.

As a friend and colleague, Ms Stephen-Smith said it had been a privilege to work with Ms McDonald.

“I have learned a lot from her about health systems, leadership, and resilience in difficult times.

“It has been clear to me in every conversation with Bernadette that her priority was the delivery of high-quality health care for the people of the ACT and surrounding region, delivered by staff who are safe and well supported.”

Ms Stephen-Smith thanked Ms McDonald on behalf of the ACT Government and all Canberrans for her contribution to Canberra Health Services and the ACT health system.

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