Greg Jenke

Comments (0) Interviews

Greg Jenke is the exiting CEO of the Port Macquarie Private Hospital, one of the major providers of healthcare and wellbeing of our local area. We catch up for a chat.

> It’s been 3 years since Ramsay Health Care acquired Port Macquarie Private Hospital. Can you reflect on this period?

In April 2005, Ramsay Health Care – which is now Australia’s largest private hospital operator – acquired Affinity Health Care and with it, Port Macquarie Private Hospital. Affinity Health had in turn only recently acquired Port Macquarie Private Hospital from Mayne Health, which had also operated the Port Macquarie Base Hospital.

I have been the first and only CEO since Ramsay acquired Port Macquarie Private Hospital following a period of scrutiny by the ACCC and the primary reason for my appointment was to bring Port Macquarie Private Hospital into the Ramsay family and to “Ramsayfy it” – if that’s the right word!

Clearly there’s a cultural difference between companies and there’s an ethos that varies from company to company. I’ve been in Ramsay Health Care for quite some time, so I was viewed by the company as being well qualified to inject the Ramsay culture into Port Macquarie Private Hospital.

> Tell us about the transition from Mayne Health to Ramsay Health Care and some of the changes and improvements that took place.

There was an adjustment period following the separation of the private hospital and Port Macquarie Base Hospital, the two hospitals having been operated by Mayne Health for over a decade with the private hospital very reliant on the Base hospital for many of its support services. With the brief ownership by Affinity and then Ramsay the private hospital needed to be able to operate independently of the Port Macquarie Base Hospital and again stand on our own.

So the first 12 months that I was here was a period of adjustment during which we needed to mould the hospital to suit the needs of the community going forward but without the “umbilical cord” that the Base Hospital had provided under Mayne ownership. We had to adjust our “cloth to suit the purse” so to speak. We had to find out what our role is, where we are headed, what service development we needed to incorporate and what infrastructure improvement was necessary.

Clearly the building infrastructure needed some work. Development needed to take place. The building had some issues which needed to be improved. Much of the infrastructure including the boilers, the air conditioning, the nurse call system, a lot of the furniture and fittings and carpet needed to be improved. So over the ensuing 3 years we have managed to do a lot of that. There’s still a long way to go, but most of the core items have been rectified.

Another big improvement that we have made has been with the introduction of our rehabilitation unit. This hospital had traditionally provided a rehabilitation role for many patients who had suffered stroke and for amputees etc. But it wasn’t recognised by health funds as a legitimate rehabilitation programme. 

So we sought to legitimize the rehabilitation unit and to receive the accompanying funding by recruiting a rehabilitation physician. It is a difficult to recruit such a position from the city but we managed to acquire the services of a rehabilitation physician from Coffs Harbour. Dr Jenny Jin has since provided this service across the two cities, which has been a great advantage to us but the rehabilitation unit is increasing in size and we’ll expand it in the future, so we may need to look into getting a rehabilitation physician dedicated to Port Macquarie in the future.

We also purchased along our journey the Hastings Day Surgery, which is immediately behind the Port Macquarie Private Hospital in Parker Street. Being so close, it has a good association with the hospital. It’s a dedicated Endoscopy unit and was purpose built for this role. Port Private continues to also perform scope work and along with the Hastings Day Surgery, the two health units will provide a complementary role to each other.

For much the same reason, we’ve also just bought Coolenberg Day Surgery (or Coolenberg Clinic, as it was known). We will use that day surgery for our ophthalmic work (for eyes). We are grateful for the support of the ophthalmic specialists for their support with this objective. 

With Coolenberg we see the advantages of being able to dedicate a facility to a particular surgical discipline, where it doesn’t necessarily have to compete for finance and resources with other surgical disciplines. It can be isolated in a budgetary sense and therefore funding can be dedicated to it in the future. That said, Coolenberg Day Surgery will continue to provide some of the plastic surgery that has traditionally been performed there. We have invested considerable capital not only with these purchases but also with the rehabilitation unit and the purchase of new equipment. 

Port Macquarie now has all new anaesthetic equipment, both monitors and anaesthetic machines, at a cost of $300,000 as well as a new ophthalmic microscope at a cost of $125,000 and an orthopaedic tower for $300,000. There have been numerous other big-ticket items along the way. 

Considerable capital expenditure has not just been allocated to the surgical/medical area, but also to the infrastructure needs mentioned previously – $100,000 for boilers, a new nurse call system for a similar amount and $40,000 for a new compressor were all deemed necessary – so Ramsay has invested these amounts into the private hospital.

One investment that the people of Port Macquarie may or may not be aware of (it certainly hasn’t received the recognition in Port Macquarie from the State Government that we felt it warranted) is that Ramsay Health Care made a $1,000,000 donation to the North Coast Integrated Cancer Care Unit, which the new radio therapy unit in Port Macquarie is very much an integral part. The $1,000,000 was provided to the overall service so given that the service traverses both Port Macquarie and Coffs Harbour, $500,000 would have been dedicated to the radio therapy unit here and $500,000 to Coffs Harbour. This has been a significant donation by Ramsay Health Care to the local community.

> Tell us about some of the successes associated with the Ramsay way of doing things.

The “Ramsay Way” is our specific ethos for how we go about the business of operating our hospitals. It refers to how we treat our patients how we value our staff and how we regard the relationship with our doctors as a partnership – they are an integral part of what we would like to achieve and we play an important role in them achieving their objectives. We like to include them in planning, we like to work with them to resolve issues and problems and we see them as valued stakeholders in the way forward for this hospital.

Also, our staff are very, very good. We like to recognize and reward staff through acknowledgment of their individual and collective contributions, through social functions including film nights, parties and giveaways. It certainly enhances morale when everyone feels recognized, valued and included. 

The Ramsay Way is very much entrenched in this hospital now and has been the vehicle for everyone to feel that we are all in this together and reading off the same page. 

> What is the Ramsay Health Care vision for the future in Port Macquarie and the developments we can expect to see in the next couple of years?

Certainly we would like to build on what we have already achieved over the past 3 years. As I mentioned, Coolenberg Day Surgery is being developed as an ophthalmic day surgery and as a “niche” market we believe it will provide a much better service for our eye surgery patients. By and large these patients are not sick, so we want to treat them a little differently to our other patients.

We’ll continue our doctor recruitment programs. We’ve been quite successful in recruiting doctors in the last 3 years. For example we’ve managed to fill the rehab position and have recruited a Geriatrician and a Urologist. 

We want to expand our very successful rehabilitation unit, so it comes into line with Ramsay Health Care’s “private room strategy”. Ultimately, every hospital in the Ramsay organisation will have almost exclusively private rooms. This is what people want these days – if they’re paying for private health insurance, they want a private room with private facilities so that strategy will work in well with our expansion of the rehab unit.

And of course … our perennial problem of car parking. Hopefully we will see a light at the end of the tunnel for our car parking issues. The Council DA approval for our carparking plan has been granted and it now needs costing and resource allocation.

I’ve now been appointed as the CEO of the John Flynn Private Hospital, which is a 317 bed facility on the Gold Coast but I’m very pleased that Ramsay Health Care has deemed that Port Macquarie Private Hospital requires its own CEO, instead of the shared role I have been performing for the past 3 years. 

The appointment of my replacement has yet to be made – it is being advertised internally within the organization in addition to externally. With 25,000 employees in Ramsay these days, I’m sure they will find somebody suitable for the role. 

It’s pleasing that there will be a CEO dedicated to this hospital and its associated facilities, as it certainly deserves to have someone devote their time to it.

> Have you enjoyed being in Port Macquarie?

Yes – very much. I’ve particularly enjoyed working with the staff and I appreciate how they accepted my shared role and gave me their support very quickly. That enabled me to face the issues in the knowledge that we could resolve them together and that was a major determinant in being able to achieve what we needed to do particularly early in my appointment. 

I’ve also enjoyed working with doctors and like the staff they accepted my shared role, acknowledged what I needed to do and even though they may not have always agreed with me they still gave me their support and importantly their friendship. 

Then of course the town is a very desirable place to live and work and a pleasure to be able to play a part in its progress. I have made some very good friends here so I will always have a soft spot for Port Macquarie. 

> Overall, would you say you’ve achieved most of the goals you wanted to achieve for Port Macquarie Private Hospital? Is it in good shape for the future?

Actually, although I am reluctant to leave I am pleased to be able to hand over a hospital that is moving forward. It’s improving all the time – we’ve managed to recognize and resolve a number of the basic issues that needed addressing. 

With our fantastic staff and supportive doctors, Port Macquarie Private Hospital will continue to grow both its facilities and services and to provide a great service to the community. I’m very comfortable to hand over the keys to my successor knowing that the hospital and associated facilities are on the right track and in good shape to face the inevitable challenges ahead.

> Thank you Greg. All the best in the future.

Leave a Reply