ACU (Australian Catholic University)

ACU Alum

Issue 5, Spring 2013

The business of health

Business of health

Managing one hospital is a challenge; managing three takes some serious talent. Caitlin Ganter spoke to ACU graduate Dr Lachlan Henderson, one of Perth’s most respected chief executive officers. 

Dr Lachlan Henderson is a master of time management.

A family man, qualified medical practitioner and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of St John of God Subiaco Hospital, Dr Henderson has a full schedule. However, life is even busier now his Subiaco role also encompasses the role of Executive Director of St John of God’s Perth Northern Hospitals.

Dr Henderson has an impressive career history. After completing medical school, he became a doctor and worked as a medical practitioner for more than a decade.

With 25 years of experience in the health-care industry, almost half of that time in executive leadership roles, Dr Henderson has some impressive achievements.

In the new role, he will be overseeing the development of the new 367-bed St John of God Midland Public and Private Hospitals in Midland, Perth. The $430 million project will deliver a range of new and expanded services to the community and a choice of public and private health care when the hospitals open in late 2015.

“It is a privilege to take on this role. I’ve worked in various positions with St John of God Healthcare for over a decade and I am glad to take on a big and challenging role for such a great group," said Dr Henderson.

“In this role I will oversee a very capable and strong team in regards to developing the new Midland hospitals, while retaining my responsibilities as CEO of St John of God Subiaco Hospital.”

Critical to his success has been a focus on quality patient care. “Coordinating hospital care with the community is something I plan to focus on. I think that rather than just being the CEO of a big facility, taking on this regional role means I’m looking more intentionally at the health of a population and a region. “

Past criticisms of hospitals are that they act separately to the community. One of the main challenges for me will be making sure the hospital at Subiaco continues to be successful, but also integrates well with the community and the new hospitals we are building.

“Key to managing them is community involvement and social outreach. St John of God has a variety of social outreach programs, such as support centres for women and houses for the homeless. It’s good to be mindful of these projects as they energise not only people in management roles, but the other hospital workers too. “

Working for a Catholic not-for-profit organisation, it’s terrific that any surplus income we might generate from our work goes back into our facilities or into the communities we serve.” Despite his success, Dr Henderson said he never had ‘any great plan’ for becoming a doctor or executive. Instead, he has developed his career steadily while following his interests.

“I didn’t come from the background of generations of medical practitioners. I was always interested in science and health as a high-school student, and I had seen some good examples of doctors growing up. It all went from there. “After I graduated I did the customary few years of hospital rotations before I went out into the big wide world and became a general practitioner (GP). It was great to put all the things I had learnt into practice and to use with real people. I really enjoyed being a GP, and it was great preparation for a career in healthcare management.

“After a while, I started to move from medical practice into more managerial tasks. I suppose I sort of stumbled into it – for one I was a bit disenchanted with being a GP, but it was more that I gradually became more involved with hospitals and really enjoyed the challenge and the work.”

As he adds to his portfolio, Dr Henderson continues to work towards a work-life balance. “I think it’s really important to keep a work-life balance. Particularly among my profession, doctors are notorious for not looking after themselves and their families properly. “I think one of the beauties of this health care area is that they support people having a life outside of work.

I’m really clear that family time is important and time off is important – if as a CEO you have a life outside of your work, then people around you will see it’s important to do this themselves. “In the era of technology where you are always accessible, I think it’s vital to disconnect. Admittedly, for me this is a work in progress.”

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