Toby Lewis has quit his six-figure role as chief executive of Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust after spending nearly a year on sick leave.
Mr Lewis had been expected to return to the top post he had held since 2013 but the trust announced this week he was leaving to join the King's Fund in London.
He had been away from the trust since last July. No further details were given on his absence other than that he was unwell. The chief executive earned more than the Prime Minister in the role, and was paid between £180,000 and £185,000 a year in his first year at the trust.
The boss of neighbouring Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust, Richard Beeken, was drafted in to help run the trust while Mr Lewis was absent. The board will now search for a permanent replacement.
It means Mr Lewis won't get the opportunity to see through the Midland Metropolitan University Hospital project he spent so much time attempting to rescue to its opening next year. He told the Express & Star he was "really looking forward to the new role".
The trust, which runs Sandwell General and Birmingham City hospitals, will operate the 'super' hospital currently being built in Smethwick.
The disastrous project has been hit by a series of setbacks and was plunged into crisis following the collapse of Wolverhampton construction giant Carillion in 2018, the year it was originally supposed to open. The result was the building and running costs rocketing to nearly £1 billion and the opening delayed by four years.
Mr Lewis played a central role in persuading the Government to step in and help save the project, which was eventually taken on by Balfour Beatty. He also led the trust's initial response to the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020.
Asked his thoughts on leaving the role, he said: "Really looking forward to the new role. Midland Met will be brilliant."