Former Liberal party VP lands job as director with N.L. health department

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The former vice-president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party and co-chair of the party's successful 2015 election campaign has landed a senior position within the Department of Health and Community Services.

The department confirmed Wednesday that Jamie O'Dea is the new director of pharmaceutical services, a position that comes with an annual salary of just under $86,000, according to information provided by the department.

O'Dea was appointed to the post without any competition, less than two months after the Liberal government slashed nearly 300 jobs from government as part of a strategy to create a flatter, leaner management structure.

She confirmed her appointment in a brief telephone conversation with CBC News, but would not provide any further comment, saying "I really got to go. I'll certainly call you back."

Further attempts to reach O'Dea were unsuccessful, with calls going to her cellphone's message manager.

Health Minister John Haggie said O'Dea was temporarily seconded from Eastern Health, where she has worked for the past decade as a manager of hematology-oncology in the medical radiation field.

"This is an example of us needing a skill set," Haggie said Wednesday when asked about O'Dea.

"We need someone with clinical trials experience in the pharmaceutical world. She has that. She has experience in oncology. We need that."

Haggie said O'Dea has been seconded for at least a year to help the province navigate the new federal-provincial drug purchasing program.

"She brings skill sets we don't have in the department and need in a fairly short order, and she will be able to take that experience back when she repatriates."

No time to post job

When asked why there was no competition, Haggie said there simply wasn't time.

"We felt we needed to fill that gap sooner rather than later," he said.

He also dismissed any suggestions there were political overtones.

"My concern about political affiliations is just not there. I don't care whether they're orange, blue or red," he said.

Steve Kent, a former minister of health in the Progressive Conservative government, told CBC News that O'Dea replaces a manager "restructured out" earlier this year.

News of O'Dea's hiring comes at an awkward time for the Liberal government, which is under fire for a controversy involving another Liberal partisan, Bernard Coffey.

Coffey resigned on Sunday as the province's top civil servant following revelations he was continuing to practice law on the side, including launching two lawsuits against two branches of government, Nalcor Energy and Western Health.

Coffey is a longtime Liberal who once challenged for the party's leadership.

On Tuesday, former clerk of the executive council David Vardy blasted the Liberals and former PC administrations for allowing politics to seep into the public service, which he said should be independent.

O'Dea played a very big role in the Liberal election campaign, and until recently served as the party's vice-president.