The chief executive officer of Canberra Health Services, Bernadette McDonald, has resigned from the role to spend more time with her family in Melbourne.
She said the decision was made “with a heavy heart”.
In an email to all staff on Monday morning (24 May) announcing her resignation, Ms McDonald said working in a high-risk setting while spending long periods of time away from her family contributed to her decision to resign from the role she has held since October 2018.
“I make this decision with a heavy heart. 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,” Ms McDonald said in her email.
“As many of you would know, the past year has been particularly tough for me, not only dealing with the uncertainty and anxiety of the pandemic, but also having to spend large periods of time apart from my husband and children.”
Ms McDonald said leading the organisation has been a career highlight, although being away from family for as long as eight months during the pandemic had proved a challenge.
“It has been a great privilege to lead an organisation whose very existence is about delivering exceptional health care to our community,” she said.
“Now is the time for me to return to Melbourne and make up for the time I missed. Plus, I’ve got a wedding to plan for my daughter and a mum who is getting older and needs a little more support than I can provide every second weekend.”
Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said Ms McDonald has been an outstanding leader for Canberra Health Services.
“Her calm and unwavering leadership of the clinical response to COVID-19 has been invaluable for staff and the entire Canberra community,” Ms Stephen-Smith said.
“While Bernadette was working to protect the health and safety of Canberrans, her family were in Melbourne. 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.
“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.
“On a personal level, it has been a privilege to work with Bernadette and I have learned a lot from her about health systems, leadership and resilience in difficult times.”
Ms McDonald said she was proud to be leaving the organisation stronger than when she arrived, and overseeing major projects such as the Canberra Hospital expansion, the introduction of digital health records and implementation of a culture review.
“There are many things that I will be proud of and reflect upon as I leave CHS,” she said.
“However, I am most proud of how so many of you are now standing up and leading in a very strong way, which was not always the case when I arrived in 2018.
“This, along with a clear vision and values, and a great strategic plan focused on people, both patients and staff, tells me that CHS has the solid foundations to become a truly great health service.”
Ms McDonald will continue as Canberra Health Services CEO until the end of July. An interim CEO will be announced in the coming weeks.