The visions and role of hospital managers in a post-COVID world

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The visions and the role of hospital managers in a post-Covid world, was examined when the European Association of Hospital Managers (EAHM)  – of which the HMI is an active member – hosted a parallel session at the recent International Hospital Federation’s 44th World congress in Barcelona, writes HM Correspondent.

The Covid crisis has highlighted the lack of consistency in Europe and in the world concerning the management of health crises and shared learning, although as the pandemic continues there has been a greater focus in these areas.

The session involved two panel discussions, the first focusing on the role of the health manager and was chaired by Lucy Nugent, CEO, Tallaght University Hospital and the second discussion chaired by Dr.Inger-Kari Nerheim, Past President, Sub-Committee for Mental Health of the EAHM focused on mental health.

A virtual presentation by Daniel Greca, Population Health Management Director at Hospital Sírio-Libanês and Fellow of the Brazilian College of Healthcare Executives focused on a recent survey of Brazilian senior health executives conducted by KPMG. It reported a range of findings such as 80% of respondents reported having gender equity initiatives in their organisations.

The Covid crisis has highlighted the lack of consistency in Europe and in the world concerning the management of health crises and shared learning

Interestingly over 80% self-evaluated themselves as either having fully achieved or over achieved in leadership. However in the follow up Q&A session it was established that this self-evaluation was not against any leadership competency framework.

The knowledge gaps identified were in communications and relationship management, understanding the changing healthcare system and digital health, particularly as the pandemic had accelerated digital transformation for which managers were in some cases unprepared. Also the importance of “human capital” was recognised as the most significant challenge ,with deficits in the health workforce set to worsen rather than improve not only in Brazil, but across the world according to the WHO.

The second speaker Philippe Blua, CEO at Champagne Sud Hospitals Group, France and President of EAHM, who presented on the role of the health manager in crisis management. He advised that life is a succession of crises and one must be prepared to face them.  This includes preparedness, early detection, quick response, collective responsibility, (both internal and externally) and an opportunity for reform/change. He quoted Jean Monnet (considered one of the founding fathers of the European Union) “Men only accept change in necessity and they see necessity only in a crisis.” Blua went on to state that in a health crisis, hospital workers will gladly accept change ,because they rediscover the heart of their profession which is saving lives. This resonated with the audience in light of the current pandemic and the need to care for healthcare workers which led nicely into the second discussion on mental health.

Dr. Neale Fong, Chief Executive Officer at Bethesda Health Care and President of the Australian College of Health Service Management, gave a virtual presentation on Australia’s response to the pandemic with their #InThisTogether campaign.

Focusing on the mental health of healthcare workers (HCWs), he articulated their fear, stress and anxiety at getting Covid-19, the fear of passing it on, the impact of staff needing to isolate, vaccination hesitancy and fear, emerging PTSD and workload pressures due to restriction of travel (highlighted the reliance on immigrant healthcare workers). Neale used the Australian LEADS model of leadership competencies to outline the response to the pandemic as follows:

Leading self            =            Reassure: model self-belief

Engaging others      =            Foster Community: rally together

Achieving outcomes  =           Act inclusively: heart not just the head

Driving innovation   =            Practice Agility: do new things

Shaping systems     =            Share Decisiveness: be aware of waiting for total clarity

Dr.Carlos Mur, Medical Director at CAT Barcelona Clinics, Associate Professor at Universidad Europea, Board Member at SEDISA (Spanish Society of Healthcare Executives), followed with a presentation on how mental health services transformed overnight and switched to the virtual environment which has proven very effective in managing mental services. Patient outcomes have been positive across a range of mental health conditions and popular with patients. He also reinforced the valuable role of Primary Care in improving care and treatment delivered to people with mental health issues.

A round up panel discussion highlighted the current and future challenges in relation to maintaining an adequate healthcare workforce globally which is a significant concern for all. It is important to support HCWs through the pandemic and beyond given the stressful nature of healthcare. Strong competent and compassionate leadership is key during the pandemic and beyond along with ongoing opportunities for shared learning.