New Delhi: Leadership along with the management system forms the backbone of any industry or organisation across the world. To effectively regulate, monitor, motivate and support workers, is the key to any achievement, which became apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic when the healthcare system faced an unprecedented challenge.
Healthcare leaders discussed leadership challenges during a session on ‘New Found Focus of CEOs in Change Management and Transformational Leadership’ at the second edition of the Economic Times Healthcare Leaders Summit 2022 organised by ETHealthworld. The panel discussion was moderated by Dr Rajib Dasgupta, Head, Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health, JNU, and Managing Editor, Indian Journal of Public Health, JNU. The panellists for the discussion were Dr Santosh Shetty, Executive Director & CEO, Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital, Commander Navneet Bali, Regional Director (North), Narayana Health, Dr Raajiv Singhal, MD & CEO, Marengo Asia Healthcare, Akash Seth, CEO, CK Birla Healthcare Group, and Amol Maheshwari, Chief Distribution Officer, Fibe.
The CEOs and leaders of the healthcare industry were of the opinion that a proactive approach and empowerment of healthcare workers at each hierarchical level is necessary to equip them for tackling future adversities at an individual level.
Dr Dasgupta got the ball rolling by posing a question about the leadership challenges that Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital faced during the pandemic, to which Dr Shetty replied, “One of the biggest challenges hospitals faced was uncertainty and unavailability of staff, the fear factor. This was one condition where some of the staff and doctors were initially apprehensive in the first phase. Every hospital really stepped up to ensure employees were in a good head sphere.”
He went on to applaud the resilience of healthcare workers during these tough times. “When the COVID pandemic hit us, there were a lot of uncertainties. The one key thing which came out this time was the tremendous collaboration between the public and private sectors. In Mumbai, BMC and hospitals were closely working together to ensure bed allocation was done in a transparent way,” he said.
Calling COVID-19 an extreme challenge and at the same time a slow disaster, Dr Dasgupta nudged Dr Singhal to share his insights. Dr Singhal shed light on the non-leadership healthcare workers, who assumed accountability and stepped in to manage the extensive workload beyond their job responsibility.
Dr Singhal said, “Lot of people who actually showed the traits of true leaders will never make it to the stage, they are the nurses and the doctors who actually worked in ICUs during the most difficult times. They exemplified that, for being a leader you don’t need a title, you need to actually perform on the ground.”
Adding to the above sentiment, Commander Bali said, “First thing that happened in the pandemic was that the entire thing about power was thrown out. We saw the best of humanity and the worst of humanity. It was more about collaboration than about leadership. It was also about relearning the qualities of empathy and caring for other human beings. “We saw leadership change its complete paradigm into going into smaller pockets where almost everyone was fighting. The world was shut down and only hospitals were open so very small pockets showed the best of humanity.”
Talking about the factors that motivated healthcare providers in times of crisis, Seth suggested how empathy was the driving force behind the exceeding efforts made by healthcare workers. He said, “It was a humanitarian crisis. Providing the right service, and making sure that the patients were getting the care they deserved was the idea we worked on and that served us well. The fear factor was real in the minds of patients, their families and also caregivers. The need for empathy, the need for care, were the ideals that helped us through this time.”
Maheshwari accentuated the role of empathy during the COVID pandemic, he suggested, “Empathy should be shown towards the patient who comes to the hospital for good treatment, who somehow doesn’t know how much the treatment would cost. One out of five Indians who are in distress are not able to afford healthcare and are on the brink to sell their assets. We need to be empathetic about ensuring timely health or at least giving a quick fast credit.”
The panel collectively agreed that capacity building is the need of the hour. Prior to the prevalence of COVID-19, healthcare delivery systems across the world were focused on attending to individual care and crisis, but healthcare delivery systems and hospitals as a whole, and their ability to handle large-scale crises were never tested.
The session concluded with the opinion that healthcare workers need to be empowered and trained such that they can act independently and take informed decisions in times of urgency, keeping all financial, operational, and medical verticals in mind.