EXCLUSIVE: Australia's The Valley Private Hospital Reveals its Path to Success
On the southeastern end of Melbourne, Australia sits a 24-hour operating, private acute care hospital that has been servicing the region for 30 years. Established to serve the growing population of Melbourne, the hospital has become a groundbreaking leader in health care with the most innovative technology and top-of-the-line equipment.
The Valley Private Hospital is headed by CEO Neil Henderson, whose vision for the hospital is to continue to achieve both quality and profitability in the most optimum way.
“Although it is assumed that part of our mantra in the private system is to get a superior return on capital and investment and to optimize profitability for our return to our shareholders, it would be remiss if I didn’t emphasize that we put a lot of emphasis on quality,” said Henderson. “It’s a very simple fundamental philosophy that if you don’t have a quality service or quality product, you don’t have a product to sell.”
The Valley Private Hospital is fully accredited by the Australian Council on Health Care Standards and goes to great lengths to ensure its staff is knowledgeable about the latest practices, houses the best tools of the trade and provides reputable patient care.
The Valley Private Hospital was established 30 years ago when its founder returned from a trip to America and took note of how emergency medicine was integrated into private acute health care. He returned to Australia with a vision of creating a major hospital with an emergency medicine component to serve the growing surface of southern Melbourne.
“In fact, he was the first,” said Henderson. “He had the first private hospital emergency department in Australia.”
With an initial roadblock of having to fight the government for its location (a neighboring hospital was only 5 kilometers away), The Valley Private Hospital began as a small hospital but grew and developed over time to serve the massive population of southern Melbourne.
“Melbourne’s population is about 4.5 million people, just behind Sydney,” said Henderson. “We’ll overtake Sydney’s population by the year 2030 – it’s a faster growing city.”
One of the major growth corridors in Melbourne has been the southeastern suburbs, where as it turns out, is where The Valley Private Hospital is located. To continue to be able to serve the growing population, the hospital has recently undergone major renovations with the inclusion of state-of-the-art technology, an aesthetic uplift and continuous staff training.
A $30 Million Investment
“My conscious decision was to differentiate ourselves in the market and improve our competitive positioning,” said Henderson.
For the past 25 years, The Valley Private Hospital had been fairly dormant in terms of investments, lacking vision. As a smaller-sized private hospital with 120 beds and 4 intensive care unit rooms, the hospital had the fundamentals to operate but not to exceed. When Henderson joined the hospital three and-a-half years ago, things began to change.
“When I took over as CEO of The Valley, Healthe Care made a major decision to reinvest in redeveloping and expanding,” said Henderson. “So we totally redeveloped The Valley inside and out. It was a total makeover and we brought [the hospital] up to contemporary standards.”
While an aesthetic uplifting was a positive transformation, Henderson decided to take it one step further.
“We took the decision to invest in technology and position ourselves strongly to increase our market share and be competitive,” said Henderson.
The Valley Private Hospital can say that it is the leader in carrying the most adept pieces of hospital technology, having acquired top-of-the-line equipment before local competitors and even surrounding countries.
“For what was a smallish private hospital, we were certainly breaking new ground with firsts and leading technologies,” said Henderson.
Investing $4 million, The Valley Private Hospital built the world’s first hybrid operating theatre integrated with a Siemens Zeego 3D imaging system, a Maquet theatre system and a Magnus table. The move was so groundbreaking that teams from both Siemens and Maquet in Germany traveled to the hospital to admire and marvel at the world first.
Additionally, the hospital also built a brand new 10-bed, state-of-the-art intensive care unit with the latest technologies, built a new ward, four new operating theaters, the largest integrated digital theaters and then added an EOS, Nobel Prize winning, spinal imaging system from France.
“We were the second in Australia with this technology,” said Henderson of the French spinal imaging system. “It’s a spinal imaging, low dose radiation X-ray machine that allows surgeons to have a 3D recreation of the spine, hips and knees.”
Storz in Germany were the first to develop a 3D camera for laparascopic surgery and The Valley Private Hospital acquired this as well.
“For more good luck than good planning, the first camera in Australia landed in our lap,” said Henderson.
A Success Story
The Valley Private Hospital took what can be seen as favorable circumstances and surpassed expectations to become the primary health care provider in southeast Melbourne.
In just two short years, the hospital’s revenue has increased from $30 million a year to $80 million. The hospital houses 700 accredited specialists, treats 13-14,000 patients per year through the emergency department and is set to undergo another $60 million investment.
“It’s certainly a success story and I think it goes to show that with vision, the right planning, understanding your market and opportunity, you can reach success against bigger opposition and take them on and win,” concluded Henderson.
This feature originally ran in the December 2014 issue of Healthcare Global.
COVID-19 "causing mass trauma among world’s nurses"
Healthcare providers are facing ongoing nursing shortages, and hospitals are reporting high rates of staff turnover and burnout as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In June a report found that levels of burnout among staff in England had reached "emergency" levels.
Registered nurses Molly Rindt and Erika Haywood are nurse mentors on US recruitment platform Incredible Health. In this joint Q&A they tell Healthcare Global about their own experiences of burnout and what can be done to tackle it.
What does it mean to be suffering from burnout?
Some of the most common reasons for nurse burnout include long work hours, sleep deprivation, a high-stress work environment, lack of support, and emotional strain from patient care.
While every profession has its stressors, the nursing industry has some of the highest burnout rates. The massive influence on patients’ lives, the long hours, and many other factors put nurses at risk of severe burnout. And with the rise of COVID-19, many healthcare professionals feel the strain more than ever.
Burnout in nurses affects everyone — individual nurses suffer, patients are impacted, and employers struggle with enormous turnover. This is why it’s crucial for healthcare systems and management to watch for signs of nurse burnout and take steps to provide a healthier workplace. Employers should be careful to watch for burnout symptoms in their healthcare staff — and not ignore them.
Symptoms include constant tiredness, constant anxiety related to work, emotional detachment and unexplained sickness.
How widespread is this problem?
Unfortunately, burnout affects approximately 38% of nurses per year and even the WHO recently labelled burnout as an official medical diagnosis. To put this statistic into perspective, nearly 4 out of 10 nurses will drive to work dreading their shift. Burnout is a reason nurses leave their positions.
Other top reasons for leaving included a stressful work environment, lack of good management or leadership, inadequate staffing, and finding better pay or benefits elsewhere.
Even before the pandemic, demanding workloads and aspects of the work environment such as poor staffing ratios, lack of communication between physicians and nurses, and lack of organisational leadership were known to be associated with burnout in nurses.
Have either of you experienced burnout?
Rindt: I have experienced burnout as an RN. I was constantly fatigued, never felt like I was off work, and would frequently dream I was still at work taking care of patients. In my particular situation, I needed to take a step back and restructure my work schedule to allow for more time off. After doing this, I was able to reduce burnout by deciding to work two shifts back-to-back and then have 2-3 days off.
Haywood: I definitely experienced constant anxiety related to work - so much so it would impact the days I wasn’t at work. At one point, I was even on medication to help combat the anxiety and stress I was facing on the job.
I had heart palpitations, chest pain, and wouldn’t be able to sleep before working the next day, which slowly started to impact other aspects of my life. I knew I couldn’t continue to live this way, it wasn’t sustainable. Because of this, I began to focus on my needs and prioritising self-care, especially during the beginning of the pandemic. Putting my needs first and not feeling guilty were necessary for me to overcome burnout.
What impact is COVID-19 having on nurses' wellbeing?
Some nurses have suffered devastating health consequences. Many nurses have dealt with excessive on-the-job stress, fears of becoming infected, and grief over seeing patients succumb to COVID-19 while isolated from their families.
New evidence gathered by the International Council of Nurses (ICN) suggests COVID-19 is causing mass trauma among the world’s nurses. The number of confirmed nurse deaths now exceeds 2,200, and with high levels of infections in the nursing workforce continuing, overstretched staff are experiencing increasing psychological distress in the face of ever-increasing workloads, continued abuse and protests by anti-vaccinators.
However, other small silver linings that came from the pandemic include increased professional autonomy, leadership opportunities and career growth potential.
How much of the cause of burnout is due to the hospitals or healthcare providers, and what can they do to address it?
Nurse fatigue poses serious problems for healthcare organisations, and a recent survey from Kronos found 63% of nurses say their job has caused burnout. The survey also found that more than 4 out of 5 nurses think hospitals today are losing good staff because other employers offer a better work/life balance.
Nurse burnout not only contributes to staff turnover, but it can impact the facility’s quality of care, patient satisfaction, and even medical outcomes.
Strategies to address burnout include training improving nurse-to-patient ratios, include nurses in policy discussions, and prioritise fostering a healthy work culture in hospitals.
What does your role mentoring nurses on the Incredible Health platform involve?
Rindt: My role can vary based on the needs of the nurses. The nurses love knowing they have someone in their corner who can give interview preparation advice or provide suggestions on how to improve their resume. Knowing that there is someone who is well-versed in the job process and can help set expectations on what to anticipate, really helps to remove a layer of uncertainty.
Haywood: When screening nurses, it is customised to what their individual RN or nurse practitioner needs, and at a time that is most convenient for them. Nurses are busy and often aren’t thought of first. Being able to provide support from the very beginning of their career advancement journey helps tremendously. We also provide resources such as resume templates and tips that can help nurses be successful and feel supported.