On Leadership: Life working as Chief Medical Officer
“The uncertainty is the hardest part of it all. Most healthcare administrators are used to uncertainty given we never know what patient will walk through the door. ”, Paul Eleftheriou from Western Health.
What is it like working as a Chief Medical Officer in a hospital?
Chief Medical Officers are responsible for managing hospital budgets, recruiting and training healthcare physicians, ensuring that all staff adhere to safety standards, and delivering the highest quality of medical care.
Learn more today on HCC as we interview Paul Eleftheriou from Western Health.
On Leadership: Life working as Chief Medical Officer
Where are you, and what is daily working life like for you right now?
I’m currently based at Western Health, which is a large multi-campus health service based out in the Western region of Melbourne. We serve a population of nearly 1 million people in one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse demographics in Australia. We have around 7,000 staff and about 1,000 beds across five campuses in our network. My daily working life right now is very busy! The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented demand on our resources and staff but thankfully it has so far been focused on planning and preparation. We still don’t know if we’ll experience a surge as they have in other countries, so we still need to plan for the worst and hope for the best!
What have you found to be the single toughest nut to crack in this situation?
The uncertainty is the hardest part of it all. Most healthcare administrators are used to uncertainty given we never know what patient will walk through the door. The difference, however, with COVID-19 is that we are far less familiar with this disease and how to manage it. So far we, as a system, have done very well in ‘flattening the curve’ by our social distancing rules and our tough but necessary lockdown laws. But we need to also remember the basics, like great hand hygiene and public health measures.
What can workplaces do to better support their employees during this time?
Be kind. If senior management is uncertain and a little afraid (we’re only human!) then imagine our staff. In every meeting, forum and interaction with staff, we as senior leaders, try our best to check in with everyone, thank people genuinely, make a joke, talk about our families and non-work related matters and remind each other that we’re in this together. We need to support each other through these times as there is a lot of stress around and don’t forget, our staff may have family or friends who have been significantly affected by COVID-19, either through the infection, the social changes and economically.
What impact do you expect this crisis to have on the global jobs market?
We’ve already seen a devastating effect on jobs all over the world. I’m no economist but you can already see the huge damage this crisis is having on our economy. I have three friends who have lost their jobs and sadly, that number will continue to grow. I’m a big supporter of the local community and small business, and I know that this sector has been damaged disproportionately. I am grateful that our governments have reached out to assist and hope this continues over the long term.
People are aware of the extraordinary work going on in the healthcare sector right now. But what about the forgotten heroes – people who might be exposing themselves to risk to keep the wheels of our societies turning? Who are the vulnerable workers, and what can be done to protect them?
There are so many unsung heroes within the healthcare sector who are doing extraordinary work in a difficult time. These are people like our patient services assistants who are continuing to deliver patients their meals and helping to lift and transport patients, the ward clerks who are keeping our reception areas running smoothly, and of course, our cleaners who are doing an amazing job to keep our hospitals and clinics hygienic and safe.
I should also mention the incredible volunteers in the community who are supporting people in need. There are thousands of people around the country donating money even though they don’t have much themselves. There are those cooking meals even though their businesses are suffering. And there are people volunteering hundreds of hours to keep vulnerable people safe and off the streets. I’d like to share my gratitude to all of these amazing people.
Times of the crisis have historically also been opportunities for change. Are you optimistic that as we emerge from this, it could be a chance to create a better future?
Absolutely. Society will change but I really do think it will change for the better. I think people will become much more mindful about infectious diseases and how to reduce the spread through very simple measures like hand hygiene, staying home when you’re sick and sneeze and cough etiquette! We have already spawned countless innovations as a result of COVID-19, which we intend to maintain. Such as telehealth, isolation hoods for intensive care patients, digital symptom monitoring apps, and the employment of medical students, which I’m very proud of. Let’s hope these great initiatives continue to help people and their communities.
Paul joined Western Health as the Chief Medical Officer in February 2018.
After initially training in surgery, Paul chose to follow a career path in medical leadership and management, initially through Epworth Healthcare, where he received national recognition for his contribution to the practice of medical administration and for his initiatives around improving medical accreditation processes.
Paul completed his Master in Health Administration through La Trobe University in 2015 and has undertaken a wide range of high-level courses to support his role as a medical administrator committed to innovation, quality improvement and achieving improved patient outcomes.