Being a High Profile, Low Key Patient: Ron Pearson

The CEO Blog will feature posts from guests while Geraint is away. Today we’re joined by Ron Pearson, Acting CEO and Director of Corporate and Business Services. Having worked at Counties Manukau Health for many years, Ron recently saw a very different side of the organization when he had his right hip replaced at the Manukau Surgery Centre (MSC). Four months on he talks about being a patient and the care he received.

I’ve had pain in my hip for some years. When I eventually went to see my doctor about it he referred me on to a specialist, our very own Rocco Pitto, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at MSC. After doing the usual tests and x rays, Rocco found that I had a spur on my hip joint, something which is more common among younger people when their bones are growing. He put me on a waiting list to remove the ball joint out of my hip, operate to remove the spur and then put the ball back in. Or so I thought…

About two weeks before the operation I found out I was having a hip replacement rather than a spur removal. Apparently this was deemed the best option as I was going to need a hip replacement sooner or later. Although the operations are similarly complex and require the same recovery period, it was still a big psychological change for me to make. I went from thinking I would have something removed to realising I was having something replaced. I’ve since seen my new hip on an x ray and it’s really odd knowing you have a titanium and ceramic mechanical piece lodged in your body.

Eventually the day of the operation arrived in early July (I kept joking with Jenni Coles, former Director Hospital Services, that I was getting very close to the six month target waiting time but I was within it). I tried to keep the whole experience low key as I didn’t want people to know I was a patient at one of our facilities or give me special treatment. Of course MSC was staffed by countless clinicians and colleagues that day, all of whom recognized me.

The surgery went brilliantly and I was out of theatre by 12:30pm. When I woke I was offered all sorts of tablets for pain but I really didn’t have any because I’d had a spinal injection in theatre. In fact, I couldn’t feel anything at all below my waist for a long time on that first day and I kept wondering whose leg was sticking out of the sheets. There was complete and utter disconnect.

Fortunately both the recovery programme and recovery team were absolutely superb. Staff talked to me about what was planned and when it was going to happen, and were really supportive of all the patients as we hobbled up and down the hallway. At 7pm on the night of the operation, Rocco visited and announced “we’re going to get you up” and out of bed, a key component of CM Health’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery initiative. It was a daunting prospect but I managed to walk two steps forward and two back with assistance on my new hip, just seven hours after surgery. If I’d been left to my own devices, I know I would have taken days to get up and moving.

In total, I had four days at MSC. One thing people always ask about is the hospital meals, which I have to say were good and provided the sustenance your body needed. I had a few funny experiences, including trying to have a shower with my new hip – a very dangerous experience. Part-way through I dropped the soap – while you can’t bend down with a new hip, there was no way I was summoning a nurse for help at that particular moment! Perhaps soap on a rope is a good idea in those showers?

I now have a new appreciation of how much personal dignity patients lose wandering around in flimsy hospital gowns. I’ve since gone back to MSC to give a speech and some of the people present were staff from the ward I’d stayed in. I’m sure they agree I look a lot better with my normal clothes on.

Perhaps one of the worst things about my stay at MSC was having to lie on my back. People who don’t ordinarily snore at home were going full throttle in hospital and the nights were punctuated by a chorus of snoring, including my own!

I really couldn’t fault the team, however, and my fears about receiving preferential treatment were unfounded – the care was superb for everybody. At a follow-up clinic eight weeks later, I overheard conversations around me and everyone was raving about their experiences at MSC.

When I was discharged, I was supposed to have six weeks of rest at home to recover. One meeting and a few phone calls a day turned into multiple meetings and teleconferences, and within the first week I was running my office from my house. The operation was fantastic, the scar is miniscule and the pain that plagued me for years is gone but in hindsight, I started working again far too early. As a result, I’ve been suffering from lack of energy and have actually been admitted as a patient again, this time to Middlemore Hospital, to deal with some very belated blood clots related to my surgery. Having tested out two of our facilities in the last four months, I’m now at home trying to relax and recuperate – I don’t need a third stint as a patient this year! But to those that have looked after me at both sites, particularly Rocco and his team at MSC and Bob Eason, Esther Woolston, Sue and the team in Ward 7 (who may know me better as Ron Ball!), a huge thank you. The care and attention paid to every single patient was just superb.



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.

4 thoughts on “Being a High Profile, Low Key Patient: Ron Pearson”

  1. Pingback: Great to be Back |
  2. Great blog Ron. I think being a patient, where you can feel really vulnerable at times, you really see just how wonderful and caring everyone is. Make sure you take time to fully recover 🙂

  3. Awesome blog Ron – one of the best I’ve read here. Really positive, entertaining (probably not for you and your hip!) and inspiring for staff to read. Elizabeth (Ko Awatea)

  4. Hello Ron,it is a good idea to share these unusual life experiences and I wish you a fast, happy and worthy recovery soon. Kind regards Subhashni

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