10/02/2016 - 14:08

Murdoch course focus on health management

10/02/2016 - 14:08

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Murdoch University is seeking to capitalise on WA’s growing health industry with a new course aimed at creating better management and leaders.

Murdoch course focus on health management
GOOD HEALTH: Francesco Paolucci is heading a new program aimed at positioning Murdoch University as WA’s premier tertiary educator for health policy. Photo: Attila Csaszar

Murdoch University is seeking to capitalise on WA’s growing health industry with a new course aimed at creating better management and leaders. 

A chronic shortage of leadership skills and policy knowledge in Western Australia’s fast-growing healthcare system has spurred the development of the new course.  

Murdoch, which does not have a medical school, has introduced a graduate certificate in health policy and leadership, aimed at healthcare professionals who hold management ambitions.

The six-month full-time course, which costs full fee-paying students $11,600, has been developed in partnership with industry and includes lecturers from representatives in healthcare services group Silver Chain, the WA Department of Health, private healthcare provider St John of God Health Care, accounting firm PwC, and Fiona Stanley Hospital.

Program head Francesco Paolucci told Business News the vast majority of people in management and officer roles in health had little strategic expertise.

“It is a massive industry, but one in which policy knowledge and leadership skills are rare and fragmented by inadequate training,” Professor Paolucci said.

The single biggest employment sector and expenditure item for the state government, the health industry was predicted to double in size over the next five years, he said.

“It’s pretty much clear that the demand for the future health care sector is going to need a mixed set of skills,” Professor Paolucci said.

“Everything from financial management to leadership. They also need core knowledge of the regulatory and legal frameworks, including health economics, governance, informatics, health and epidemiology. These are crucial to respond to the needs of an increasingly complex and global industry.”

Acting Murdoch vice-chancellor Andrew Taggart and dean Benjamin Reilly said the course was aimed at positioning the university as the state’s premier tertiary institution for health policy, while Professor Paolucci said it should appeal to those who wanted to lead health organisations and research organisations, run hospitals, and advise health ministries.

“The future will belong to those who can find creative ways to make meaningful reforms, for instance changes to health insurance, privatisation, expenditure reductions, e-health and unification of electronic records,” Professor Paolucci said.

Australian Institute of Company Directors WA manager Kirsten Rose told Business News progressive companies and organisations were increasingly seeking to hire first for depth of thinking, then training later on specific industry issues.

“I see health maybe being a little bit ahead of the curve and recognising this,” Ms Rose said.

She said the health, disability and aged care sectors’ ability to move first in recognising an increasing need for broad, strategic skills could in part be explained by these industries being forced to react to major reforms, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and consumer directed care models.

Ms Rose noted it was part of a broader trend, with education programs within AICD experiencing increasing demand across the board.

“Organisations are looking at their business models and their own financial sustainability and how are they going to succeed in the new world, and they recognise it’s not just about having specific skills but about knowing how to think strategically and drive outcomes,” Ms Rose said.

St John of God Health Care director of research Nik Zeps, who teaches an ethics unit in the Murdoch course, said another growing trend in the health industry was the recognition that business decisions needed to draw on ethical principles, rather than just cold analytics.

“You want compassion from your workforce,” he said.

“We’re trying to give people an ability to use their own moral compass ... then try to build that sensitivity into the (business) decision-making processes.

“If someone was just looking at a spread sheet and said ‘look, the bottom line is we’re making 18 per cent profit, not 18.8 per cent profit’ … how do you describe the intangibles of ‘yes, we did that, but we didn’t sack someone on Christmas Eve’?”


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