Stanton Hospital boss Les Harrison has been reassigned within the territorial government, nine months before the new Stanton facility opens its doors.

Harrison became the hospital’s chief operating officer in April 2017. The territory’s health and social services authority confirmed he had “accepted a temporary reassignment” to become assistant deputy minister for families and communities, as well as director of child and family services.

The reassignment will last until the final quarter of this financial year, the territory said in a statement.

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A new Stanton Hospital building is presently being built next to the current facility, at a projected cost of $350 million.

The territorial government expects the building itself to be substantially complete by the end of 2018, and ready to accept its first patients by May 2019.

‘No impact’

Asked why the hospital’s top executive would be reassigned at such a critical juncture for its nearly 600 employees, a spokesperson for the health and social services authority said: “The reassignment came about because the department and the NTHSSA [the territory’s health and social services authority] agreed that Les Harrison’s skills and background knowledge would help to strengthen the team leading quality improvements in the department’s territorial social programs division over the coming months.

“Les’s temporary absence from the Stanton Renewal project will not have any impact on its success,” the spokesperson added. “The Stanton Renewal team that has been in place for some time will continue to provide leadership.”

The reassignment took effect on Monday. The decision to reassign Harrison was the responsibility of the Department of Health and Social Services’ deputy minister, Bruce Cooper, and the health authority’s chief executive, Sue Cullen.

Kim Riles, the authority’s executive director of clinical integration, will assume temporary command of the hospital in Harrison’s absence.

“The Stanton Renewal Project is proceeding in accordance with the plan and we are looking forward to first patient day in May of 2019,” the territory said.