One Eye on the Granny Test

Recently I met many of you in person at ‘Coffee with the CEO’. I really enjoyed the opportunity to meet staff from across the organisation and hear about the issues that are important to you. I was also impressed by the discussion, which was challenging, informed and spoke straight to some of the key issues facing CM Health. It really did give me a great deal to think about, particularly about how we balance the change we are trying to achieve across the health system. We know that certain parts of the system are working fantastically while other parts are under incredible pressure. Sometimes the productivity of the hospital outstrips our ability to support people at home and in the community, and we need to make sure community services are well calibrated to look after the volume of patients we are seeing.

Working out how to deliver the best services for our patients is at the heart of everything we do. But I believe that you can’t achieve that without building relationships and making the effort to connect with those around you, in my case virtually through this blog or in person. Taking the time to talk to staff is a really important way for me to stay grounded and ensure we are focussing on the right things as an organisation. I spend up to 60% of my working week at Middlemore, where I base myself in Ko Awatea’s atrium. I do this because it makes me visible and approachable. I really do encourage you to come and say hello if you see me in the atrium or around our sites. I’m always happy to make connections with staff.

I’ve also previously mentioned shadowing, where I spend half a day with a team seeing firsthand your daily reality. I try and do this for two half days a month but I do have one rule: I won’t go somewhere unless I’m invited. I also do regular, informal walk-arounds as much as I can. If you haven’t seen me, it’s probably because we now have a very big organisation. If there’s an area you particularly want me to visit, either for a half day or just to pop in, please do let me know (

Something that was also brought to my attention recently was the idea of having a ‘family day’ when staff can bring their children to work. I do think it is important to break down barriers between the hospital and the community so that our families and loved ones get a sense of where we work, what we do and what careers are possible in healthcare. But what do you think? Leave a comment on this blog or drop me an email with your thoughts.

As always, I’ve been thinking a lot about the Granny Test and our commitment to provide the standard of care we would want our family members to receive. This was highlighted recently when I had an ordeal at work. Don’t ask me how but I managed to scratch my eyeball. Those who have done it will know how incredibly painful it can be. I ended up in our own ED where I was treated amazingly well within 45 minutes. You might say ‘surprise, surprise’ and I fully accept I’m not the average patient. Even so, I was given outstanding treatment and went from being in extreme pain to some level of comfort in a short space of time. Every five minutes various members of the ED staff would pop their heads in to ask if we were still meeting the Granny Test. The answer is a resounding yes, I would definitely be happy for a family member to receive the care I did that day. Thank you and keep up the good work!

Then a couple of days later the Granny Test came to mind again when this email crossed my desk. It was from one of our staff members, Sandy, who works in Learning and Development:

You won’t know but I have two very handsome sons. Sam is 19 and in his first year of a four year degree. When he’s not studying or spending time with his girlfriend, he’s here, pushing patients around the hospital. It’s been a great job for a bright but shy young man and he knows more about the operational workings of Middlemore than I do, that’s for sure.

My second son, Nico, is a little mischief – a typical 15 year old, who loves sport and showing off his muscles to the girls in the city where he lives with his Dad.

But in between Sam and Nico was another baby.  I was eight weeks pregnant when the pain and bleeding started. And yes, I came to Middlemore, and yes, I lay on a gurney in the corridor outside ED while other people with varying injuries and in different states of sobriety sat around. But this wasn’t the worst of it … 

It’s all a bit fuzzy now, but I needed to have an ultrasound and for some reason I had to go into the room alone. The clinician completed the scan and turned to me and said “there’s nothing there”. That’s it. No empathy, no consideration of my feelings, no personal interaction that made me feel I was important or recognition that I might be mourning a small life.  As it transpired, I’d had an ectopic pregnancy and only after several weeks of blood tests was I deemed to be “unpregnant”.

Fast forward to yesterday. Sneaking out after the Coffee with the CEO morning tea, I jumped in my car and shot over to the Botany Maternity Unit. Here I got to hold my girlfriend’s day-old baby, born at Middlemore. Penelope was full of praises for our staff, in terms of both the ante-natal care and delivery. She was unexpectedly shipped out to Botany, where three other new mums were sharing the unit, and was enjoying the peace and quiet with her partner and daughter.

Thank goodness we’ve come a long way since the 1990s…

Thanks Sandy for sharing your powerful story. It really sums up the journey we are on and the progress we’ve made to ensure that the care we provide is exceptional, not just for the CEO but for each and every patient we treat.



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.

One thought on “One Eye on the Granny Test”

  1. Although I do not know how it would work practically for those working in clinical areas, I think that the family day idea is fantastic. From experience my 2 daughters always look forward to their trip to have lunch at “Daddy’s work” (Ko Awatea) most school holidays (in fact it is one of the first things they put into their calendar of events)
    Currently they are too young to be seriously thinking about their future careers (although my eldest did declare she wanted to be a doctor who looked after bones after she broke her arm at age 4), but by visitng (even briefly for lunch) it has broken down the fear barriers as they are fascinated by Middlemore rather than seeing it as a big scary building that you go to when you are sick.

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