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Robert Bell, a former orthopedic oncologist who has led Toronto’s University Health Network for nine years, has been named Ontario’s new deputy minister of health.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

The high-profile president of Toronto's University Health Network has been named Ontario's new deputy minister of health, putting him in charge of a complex $49-billion department that has been struggling to control costs.

Robert Bell, a former orthopedic oncologist who has led UHN for nine years, is replacing Saad Rafi, the veteran civil servant who resigned late last year to take over the troubled Pan Am Games organizing committee.

"To be asked to lead the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care of Canada's largest province is something I couldn't turn down because I want to do whatever I can to ensure that the health care we have today is even better quality and more affordable for our children and our grandchildren," Dr. Bell wrote in an e-mail to UHN staff and supporters Wednesday announcing his resignation.

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"I anticipate that there will be days when I wish that I had never left UHN – but I have learned so much working here that will be useful in my new job."

Educated at McGill University, the University of Toronto and Harvard University, Dr. Bell was appointed in 2005 to the post of president and CEO of UHN, which includes Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital, the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre.

Dr. Bell did not immediately respond to a request for an interview. A spokeswoman for UHN said he likely would not speak in detail about his new responsibilities until he starts the job in about two months.

The move will likely mean a significant pay cut for Dr. Bell. He earned $753,992.40 in 2012, the last year for which figures are publicly available, making him the highest paid hospital boss in the province.

Mr. Rafi earned $427,551.76 the same year.

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