21 April 2020

ACT Health boss abruptly resigns amid family concerns over COVID-19

| Dominic Giannini
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Michael De’Ath

Michael De’Ath has abruptly resigned from the Health Directorate and returned to Melbourne to be with his family. Photo: Supplied.

The abrupt resignation of the ACT Health’s Director-General, Michael De’Ath, has thrown a spanner in the works of the government’s COVID-19 response. However, Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith insists it will be business as usual as the territory continues to flatten the curve and push ahead with the SPIRE project.

Mr De’Ath has returned to his family in Melbourne in what Minister Stephen-Smith called a difficult time.

All of his daughters have been affected by COVID-19 in some way, she said, and it is understood that he has already arrived in Melbourne.

The Minister said she was not aware of any complaints raised by Mr De’Ath over ACT Health policies when asked if his resignation was a protest against the government’s pandemic response.

“I have worked with Michael for three-and-a-half years and know how deeply devoted he is to his daughters, who have each been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.

“Obviously this past month has been very difficult for everyone [but] he has not conveyed to me that that was part of his thinking.”

Mr De’Ath was appointed to the role at ACT Health in April 2018 where he oversaw the re-accreditation of Canberra Hospital. He also oversaw the re-structure of Canberra Health Services to become a separate organisation, which is now headed by Bernadette McDonald.

Ms Stephen-Smith lauded Mr De’Ath for his work in changing the culture of the organisation after his appointment as he worked to implement the Independent Review into the Workplace Culture within ACT Public Health Services.

“Michael has been absolutely committed to leading cultural change across the ACT public health system and he can be rightly proud of what has been achieved to date,” she said.

“Cultural change takes time, but the recent climate survey results indicate that the Directorate is on the right track.”

Minister for Mental Health Shane Rattenbury thanked Mr De’Ath for the vitality and energy he brought to the role.

“Michael instilled real clarity of purpose for the organisation, providing clear direction and enabling our staff to do what they do best, delivering high-quality health services,” he said.

Deputy Director-General Kylie Jonasson has been appointed to the Director-General role for the next six months.

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It sounds like a case of “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen”. He was content to cruise along leisurely collecting his pay and enjoying the perks but when some work finally came along he went to water and p*ssed off back to Melbourne. Hopefully the next Director-General is made of sterner stuff and will put in the effort to help us overcome the COVID-19 crisis rather than simply being a time server unable to cope with the job when the chips are down.

Capital Retro9:43 pm 21 Apr 20

Why wasn’t his family living in Canberra too?

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