Recently, the Ministry of Health suggested hiring chief executive officers (CEOs) to manage public hospitals instead of appointed doctors as at present. Tuổi Trẻ Cuối Tuần (Youth Weekly) talks with Giản Tư Trung, director of PACE Institute of Management.
What is your opinion about hiring CEOs who are not doctors to manage hospitals? If a talented doctor is the head of a hospital, will he understand how to run it?
I agree with the idea but hiring CEOs to manage hospitals would only be effective if the hospitals are considered businesses providing healthcare services and the heads are managers.
I have provided management classes to some hospitals and I noticed that many leading doctors were opened-minded and eager to learn management skills.
In developed countries, few hospitals appoint doctor’s as a boss because the hospital might lose a talented doctor and gain a bad manager.
Why do you think it is not the right time to hire CEOs to manage public hospitals?
I believe that hiring CEOs to manage public hospitals in Việt Nam is not yet acceptable. It is a complicated issue. Thinking about the nature of hospitals must be changed first. Mechanisms and policies related to public hospitals are not ready for hiring CEOs.
I think we need a roadmap for the change.
In developed countries, it is difficult to hire a talented doctor to work as a hospital director as sometimes the income of a doctor is much higher than a hospital director. Another reason is that a good doctor might be more respected than a CEO.
But in Việt Nam, many people believe a talented doctor who has not been promoted to a management position is not a good doctor. Besides, with current mechanisms, he or she might suffer a loss in income.
So, to implement the idea, the State should change its management of the healthcare sector and its thinking in hospital management. Hospitals should separate management work and medical work. This means talented doctors should not be promoted to management positions if they don’t have management skills.
Should Việt Nam pursue the model other countries use?
If the director of a hospital is a doctor they must also be a good manager. Healthcare is a special sector. If a doctor decides to be a manager, he or she should spend a lot time on the new job. They will not have enough time for their medical practice.
In my opinion if CEOs are hired hospitals would be managed professionally.
Could you suggest a roadmap to realise the idea?
The first to do is to provide management and leadership knowledge to management staff including directors and heads of sections in public hospitals.
Public hospitals should keep their directors as doctors but should hire chief operating officers (COOs) to assist them.
But in the long-term, the hospitals should hire CEOs to run the hospital and talented doctors can chair medical committees.
In my opinion, the model should also be applied in schools.
For the past five years, most directors in private hospitals have taken training courses in management and leadership. But few heads of public hospitals have done so.
When hospital directors are asked if they regarded patients as clients the answers are different.
Only when hospitals respect patients as clients, they will offer services instead of favours as at present. — VNS