‘Twas the Week Before Christmas

I find the last few weeks before the Christmas break part daunting and part frustrating.

They’re daunting because you suddenly remember exactly just how much you have to do, both at work and at home, before Christmas. And unlike most things, you can’t reschedule Christmas day.

This year this busyness comes off the back of a very long 12 months in which we’ve achieved a huge amount delivering ever higher standards of care and making the best use of our funding. It always seems to me such a long haul from Queen’s Birthday to Christmas with only one official public holiday to get us through the toughest part of the year. And now, unsurprisingly, we’re all a bit tired and frazzled just as the work load ramps up very quickly. Somehow it all seems to get done but I know many of us are very weary on our feet. I just want to thank you for the incredible hard work and professionalism you’ve shown this year and beg you to hang on for just a few more days. I also hope the weather improves as you all deserve a really good, and sunny, break.

I also find this time of year frustrating because a lot of really good work stops for several weeks. While it’s nice to have a break, it’s frustrating because I want to push on with the very many exciting things underway in the organisation. Despite that, what is most important is to take the opportunity to relax and recharge. As Shontal commented on an earlier post, part of keeping well is having regular breaks, taking care of ourselves and exercising in moderation throughout the year.

Of course we are a 24/7 operation and many of you won’t be getting the kind of Christmas break most people have. Although I know hospital can be quite a fun and special place at Christmas, I’d also like to acknowledge that those staff who are working will be taking time away from family and friends to keep our services running. I hope you’re also able to get a good break in the near future.

Inevitably at this time of the year, my thoughts also start turning to next year. I think 2012 will be really exciting for us at CMDHB. A lot of the changes and investments we’ve made this year have been aimed at building our capacity and capability so that we can begin to think about how to improve services in the face of a growing population and increasing levels of chronic disease. That investment has already led to some fantastically creative, innovative and ground-breaking ideas. There’s the work of Gill Cossey and the Surgical teams looking at how we can reduce our waiting times for surgery so that patients are treated even faster than the waiting times being set by the new Government. We’re looking at ways to keep our Emergency Department working as smoothly as we can despite increases in demand. There’s work underway to improve end of life care. And we’re putting a lot of effort into the Saving 20,000 Bed Days initiative to help rebalance the health system. Bubbling just underneath the surface is a huge amount of creativity which I know will make 2012 a year of great change, great momentum, great professional satisfaction and, dare I say it, great fun.

All of the changes we’re putting in place, all of the improvements we’re seeking and all of the courses we’re putting on in Ko Awatea are aimed at one thing which is one of my major reflections from the last year or two. When I look back at my career, which is now stretching out to 27 years, I’ve seen a healthcare system which has become ever more complex while the people within it have been ground down, to the extent that the reason why they joined healthcare in the first place and their values about caring for people have somehow got lost. One of my key objectives, both personally and professionally, is to get back the reconnection between the values we all hold and what we do on a daily basis.

Why is this so important to me? Many years ago, my family hired a nanny to look after our young kids. Soon after she started, she discovered a breast lump and over several weeks we watched her get more stressed, worried, unhappy and scared. We didn’t know about the lump and assumed our children were the cause of her distress. But when we asked her about it, she explained that she’d discovered a lump and had been to the hospital I was then in charge of. What followed was a story about missed appointments, lost x rays and unorganised tests, the sum total of which was that it had taken over two months for her to learn whether or not she had cancer. Firsthand I saw the toll that that experience took on someone I knew.

Fortunately she is now fine but what has always motivated me since then is a desire to ensure that that doesn’t happen again. Many of you may have read the sad story in the Weekend Herald about a young woman who tragically didn’t receive a breast cancer diagnosis in time and is now preparing for her last Christmas with her family. It reminded me of our nanny and underlined for me both the importance of what we do and the responsibility we all carry. So if you hear me talking about the need for improvement, staff engagement, passing the granny test, reconnecting with values and improving our standard of care, I guess all I’m saying is that I want to make sure we have a service that truly looks after people, be they patients or staff.



Author: Geraint Martin

Geraint Martin was appointed Chief Executive Officer of Counties Manukau DHB in December 2006. It is one of the largest District Health Boards in New Zealand and services a population of half a million. He has significant experience over 30 years in national policy & in managing both primary and secondary care . Previously, he was Director of Health and Social Care Strategy at the Welsh Government .He authored a radical 10 year strategy of reform, including the successful “Saving 1000 lives” Campaign.Until 2004, he was CEO at Kettering General Hospital & had held senior positions in London & Birmingham.He has worked closely with clinicians in improving clinical standards,patient safety,chronic disease management & managing acute care to reduce hospital demand.In NZ, He has promoted clinical quality and leadership as central to improving patientcare. This has led to a significant increases in productivity and access, whilst maintaining financial balance. CMH has completed in 2014 a $500 m capital redevelopment programme, the largest in New Zealand. A central part of this is the establishment of Ko Awatea,the Centre for Innovation and Research which will underpin CMH as one of the the leading health systems in Australasia.In 2008, he chaired the Ministerial Review of Emergency Care in New Zealand, and in 2013 was an member of the Expert Advisory Panel on Health Sector Performance. Geraint has an MSc in Health Policy from Birmingham University .His post-graduate work has focused on health economics and Corporate Strategy . He is adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management at AUT and Victoria University, Wellington Elected in 2006 as a Companion of the Institute of Healthcare Management, previously he was an Associate Fellow at Birmingham University.He is is Chair of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, a member of the Institute of Directors, on the Board of the NZ Institute of Health Management & previously the Board of The NZ Health Quality and Safety Commission.

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