Past – Present – Future

Mona Baker
Mona Baker, Executive Lead in Coaching, Mentoring and Organisational Health for Children’s Health Ireland (CHI)

My career has spanned almost four decades and I have many happy memories of my time in the Irish Health Services. Indeed, there has been numerous challenges along the way, and it is not the challenges per se, but how we react and learn from those challenges that shapes who we are, writes Mona Baker

My Temple Street career started in 1997, as Human Resources Manager and progressed to Human Resources Director. I was appointed Chief Executive (CEO) in 2011 having spent some time as Acting Chief Executive.

Prior to coming to Temple Street, I worked in the Meath Hospital before it moved to Tallaght Hospital. I was fortunate to have excellent role models during my time there, namely Derek Dockery (CEO) who passed away prematurely, Elizabeth O’Dwyer the Matron of the time, (now known as a Director of Nursing), and many CEO leaders who were part of the Health Management Institute and who played a major influence in my work life.

When I arrived through the Blue Front Door in Temple Street on that first morning, I knew it was going to be a ‘special place.’ Within minutes I could feel and see the mission and values in action. A building is just bricks and mortar but there is definitely a ‘sense of belonging’ when you come through that front door. It is special and it is these values and culture that we must bring to our new hospital. I have seen over the years the strengths of Temple Street, despite its outdated structure and lack of facilities more than make up for its deficits which to me epitomises all that is good about Temple Street.

What I experienced on a daily basis, was world class dedicated and skilled staff, delivering high quality care in a sub optimal environment, a culture of ‘patient safety’, the core principle of the patient/child at the centre of everything we do, and staff going that ‘extra mile’ with their ‘Can Do’ attitude.

Over my time in Human Resources, staff support became critical to me and with little investment and creativity, Temple Street went on to win The Great Places to Work for six years, being the only publicly funded hospital to receive this accolade and being voted by our staff as being one of the Best 50 Workplaces in Europe and one of the top 10 in Ireland. With my team and the Occupational Health team we developed and delivered Dignity and Diversity Work programmes as well as ‘Recognition of Excellence Awards’ (the latter now being delivered by CHI) and appreciation for ‘Long Service’ Awards. 

I was very privileged to be appointed to the CEO role in January 2011 and was overwhelmed with the width and depth of responsibility that this new role entailed, but I had an excellent Corporate Management Team who supported me relentlessly during my term as CEO. There are so many initiatives and services that we developed together that demonstrates that Temple Street is a leading paediatric healthcare provider. This did not happen by chance, but by demonstrating and driving that ‘Can Do’ attitude. I was fortunate to preside over many capital infrastructural projects. Some of these projects included refurbishment of our Emergency Department (which is one of the largest in Europe), a new Day Ward facility to the installation of our first MRI almost 19 years ago and I am proud to say our second MRI is presently being installed.

The transfer of Neurosurgery (under 6s) from Beaumont to Temple Street was a key factor in shaping who we are. Then there was the transfer of Paediatric Haemodialysis and Kidney Transplantation from Beaumont Hospital to Temple Street in 2003, with the 100th transplant being conducted at Temple Street in 2015. Other key developments included the Refurbishment of Paediatric Intensive Care (PICU) and the transfer of Paediatric Cochlear Implantation in 2010 as well as the Cleft and Craniofacial Services together with the Dental Service. The development of these services has enriched children’s lives beyond what is imaginable. A new out-patient wing in recognition of retired medical staff who made a significant contribution to the lives of children and their families was opened in 2018. We now have our own special Gill Unit and King Unit, which hosts the Renal out-patient service and the Neurology service. We have seen the development of the Spina Bifida service, Limb Lengthening, expansion of the Neurodisability/Neuromuscular services and the transfer of Neurosurgery (over 6s) from Beaumont culminating in the delivery of very complex procedures and surgery delivered by highly skilled professionals. 

On the digitalisation front Temple Street did not stand still, the digitalisation of Radiology and some Laboratory systems and the upgrade of other IT systems such as HSCPs, PAS, Finance and HR have all contributed in improving access for our patients together with an improved patient experience. 

We are only short steps away from our new state of the art Children’s Hospital with two urgent care centres in operation at Connolly and Tallaght as part of the model of care.

There are a number of initiatives that as CEO I have pioneered but am proud of two of these which are very close to my heart and which again demonstrates the values of Temple Street namely the development of a Strategic Statement of Intent in 2013 entitled ‘Engaging Power, Engaging Passion, Engaging People – We are doing it Now.’ Six strategic themes were identified as the priority focus of the hospital to which all staff committed. These themes are designed to put the experience and voice of the child at the centre of how our services are designed and delivered. A further initiative was the development of a case study and resource toolkit in partnership with the HSE Quality Improvement Division (QID) to guide Boards in strengthening the quality of care and entitled ‘Bringing the Board of Directors on Board with Quality and Safety of Clinical Care’. The output form this initiative outlined how the Board of Temple Street changed the way it did its business and rebalanced its agenda over a two year period to give prominence to quality of patient care, ensuring oversight and continuous improvement and essentially delivering on a ‘real world successful Board in action.’ The recommendations arising from this piece of work included the development of a Board of Directors’ Quality Dashboard. 

So, what does the future hold, we are only short steps away from our new state of the art Children’s Hospital with two urgent care centres in operation at Connolly and Tallaght as part of the model of care. Work is well under way on the integration of services enabled by the standing up of the Clinical Directorate Structures on each of the local sites. This meant that the delegation of power was transferred from me as Chief Executive on t September 1, 2020, and handed over to the Clinical Director as part of the new CHI governance structures. This changing of the guard has given me the opportunity to pursue what I am passionate about, which is supporting staff through the transition and beyond. As Executive Lead in Coaching Mentoring and Organisational Health, my role is to support staff by ensuring that their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing is promoted and managed to allow them to deliver excellence in patient care.

Compassionate Leadership that we talk so much about in healthcare for me is the true essence of good leadership.

Staff have experienced a very difficult number of years beginning with COIVD 19, followed by the Cyber- attack. They have given more and more, have made many sacrifices, have lost loved ones and continue to go that ‘extra mile’. It is now time to demonstrate that Compassionate Leadership that we talk so much about in healthcare for me is the true essence of good leadership. Compassion must characterise our leadership at every level of our healthcare system and as Leaders we must provide that motivation to always ask the question? – ‘How can I help you’ which to me is the most important task of Leadership.

Mona Baker, Executive Lead in Coaching, Mentoring and Organisational Health for Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), holds qualifications in Health Services Management, Human Resource Management, Quality & Leadership in Healthcare, Meditation Studies, Executive Coaching & Leadership and most recently Corporate Governance.