READ WE CHAT TO THE SUNSHINE COAST’S NEW HOSPITAL AND HEALTH SERVICE CHIEF EXECUTIVE, NAOMI DWYER
SUNSHINE COAST HOSPITAL AND HEALTH SERVICE’S NEW CHIEF EXECUTIVE, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR NAOMI DWYER, BELIEVES SHE HAS THE TEAM TO DELIVER WORLD-CLASS HEALTH CARE TO ONE OF AUSTRALIA’S FASTEST GROWING REGIONS
The volunteers at the new Sunshine Coast University Hospital oughtta feel very proud. Newly-appointed Health Service Chief Executive (CE), Adjunct Professor Naomi Dwyer lists her initial encounter with the hospital volunteers (a few days before starting in the top job) as one of her proudest moments to date.
“They actually didn’t know who I was, or they did a very good job of not letting on,” Prof Dwyer said.
“If I was a member of the public coming in to visit a loved one or bringing somebody in for care, having that level of positivity and kindness available right at the entry point of a health service makes such a difference – it made me feel really proud.”
Prof Dwyer, 53, comes to the Sunshine Coast from Adelaide, where she was CEO of South Australia’s Women’s and Children’s Health Network. Since arriving in November last year, she said the other thing that has really impressed is the spirit of collaboration between local health services and key partners here on the Coast.
Whether it’s the teaching arm of the hospital in the unique Sunshine Coast Health Institute partnership (Griffith University, University of Sunshine Coast and TAFE Queensland East Coast), the North Coast Aboriginal Health Corporation, the Primary Health Care Network, GPS or other private health providers, she said the spirit of collaboration to take the region’s health care to the next level was palpable.
“It’s a great achievement in just safely opening a new university hospital. But the next opportunity which really excites me is how we now, as an integrated Sunshine Coast hospitals and health service, take it to the next level in terms of world-class delivery,” Prof Dwyer said.
And she has enormous experience in that area, as Chief Operating Officer for Queensland’s first university hospital which opened on the Gold Coast in 2014: an area she’s from originally.
Prof Dwyer grew up on the Gold Coast and said one of the things she’s really enjoying about her move north is that so many parts of the Sunshine Coast remind her of ‘home’, when it was all beautiful unspoilt beaches and a relaxed lifestyle. “In those days” when there was no university on the Gold Coast, she had to travel to Brisbane to both work and study (in business), feeling she was missing out on all the fun of being a full-time university student.
“But looking back now, it was a real opportunity to bank some of that life experience and work experience which has been so helpful later on,” she said.
“When you look back over your life, you see the critical people that have made a difference. I often say to our daughter,
(Grace, 22), that careers can be like Snakes and Ladders. Sometimes it’s about those defining points and people and decisions which can be quite critical in where you ultimately land. Sometimes you can approach life and think you’ve got a whole career planned ahead of you but life’s not like that.”
With a successful career to draw from, she says a more resilient approach is to keep your eyes open for the opportunities, and not being defeated by disappointment or when things don’t pan out the way you thought they would.
And early in her career, while working and studying in business, that’s exactly what happened when she took an opportunity to work with Gold Coast Health.
That role ignited her love of public health and understanding of how complex adaptive organisations like health are. It also crystallised her understanding of what’s important in leadership, and in creating a positive culture to deliver great care.
“I think leadership is about setting the organisational tone and, as I’ve said to a couple of my team already, CE stands for the chief enabling officer. So, what can I do to provide the right culture, systems and support for people that are at the direct
interface of providing care, or supporting somebody to provide care. For me, it’s about hearts and minds.”
Prof Dwyer said one of the things that inspires her about the health industry is that it’s driven by service, and that the people working in health care are there because they want to make a difference.
It’s something she’s experienced first hand from the consumer’s point of view too, having had loved ones in her own life with illness and disability, she understands the need to trust strangers with the people you love most in the world.
“[As a health service] we are there in the happiest, the most frightening, the saddest point of people’s lives and I think leadership is about creating an organisation where people can rely on the care that they’ll receive.
“That’s not just the technical part of care, but it’s also about how we deliver that in a kind and compassionate way. I’ve seen great care and I’ve seen care elsewhere that is not what I would want my organisation to deliver.”
While Prof Dwyer has hit the ground running in the new position, she’s also taken the time to discover what makes the Sunshine Coast so special as a region. Living not far from the hospital, walking along the “unspoilt and gorgeous” beaches at Wurtulla and Currimundi are a favourite, as is having breakfast at Maleny, stopping into all the hinterland shops and galleries and dining at Ocean Street, Maroochydore.
Together with husband Wayne (who she describes as being the reason she can do what she does), they love both the hinterland and coastal aspects, and they love the lifestyle. But their ‘to do’ list on the Sunshine Coast remains long.
“There’s something very special here and it’s clear, even after being here for just a few weeks, it’s very community centred. This role is a real privilege and especially at this time in the health service’s life journey, there’s so many opportunities to do great things because the people, and the partnerships are fantastic.
“A few years back, Wayne and I visited from South Australia. We went for a drive and you could see the hospital taking shape and we thought, ‘wow, isn’t that going to be tremendous and wouldn’t it be great to be CEO there?’.”
Now they often say how ironic it was. “Sometime life takes you in directions that you hadn’t anticipated, but isn’t that marvellous?”
Sunshine Coast Hospital and Health Service Chief Executive, Adjunct Professor Naomi Dwyer, at the Sunshine Coast Univerity Hospital.
Queensland Health’s Sunshine Coast University Hospital.