In 1995 after completing ten happy years contract in Singapore we were on our way to the next assignment, a university appointment in the Philippines. I was delighted with the appointment as the new campus had been developed during my time as the Singapore based administrator sourcing funds for the project, and I’d additional good fortune to be on the search committee appointed to look for the suitable site they then occupied so I was familiar with the site and the institution’s growth to date. The location was not far from the resort area of Tagaytay, one of my favourite places in the Philippines.
The university I was invited to join was formed by Presidential Decree for the purpose of offering Masters and PhD opportunities for Asian administrators, but it soon became apparent as the campus came on line there’d be a sizable African group sourcing this opportunity because of the reduced cost of obtaining an internationally recognized degree and prospects of later transfer of credits to US Universities. I’d annually taught business in distance learning centres for the university during my Singapore assignment days so was familiar with faculty and staff as well as location.
We arrived on campus a few weeks before Christmas and within days received our household effects. They’d been shipped from Singapore weeks before our departure. Once more we were unpacking and setting up home. This would be our eighteenth unpacking in a new location since leaving Australia in 1965 to work overseas.
The move was not without considerable personal cost. India and Singapore had comparable electronic equipment which ran on 240 volt and 50 cycles similar to that used in Australia, so those moves had been relatively easy. However the Philippines power supply in our area supported 230 volt 60 cycles and that necessitated discarding all old equipment and purchasing new. It was quite an investment for us to make.
So when we received a surprise phone call a few weeks after unpacking requesting we urgently consider a job back in Australia to manage a large hospital out of financial crisis we quickly turned the request down. We’d just settled, and the thought of packing up again and unpacking in another country was hardly appealing. What would we do with equipment just purchased which would not be suitable for use in Australia? We had an enjoyable relatively stress free job in a beautiful location and were being invited to swap that for a high pressure stressful substitute job. We said a quick no to the invitation and prepared to settle in to university work for a few enjoyable years.
But telephone calls from Australia continued, each one becoming more urgent as the days went by, and finally the President of the university who’d also been included in this barrage of calls advised me to fly to Sydney and sort it out there. Perhaps if I said no face to face the telephone calls would stop?
So I made the trip at hospital expense and spent a couple of days looking over their operations, finances and administrative staffing. Now not all were happy to see me arrive. I quickly discovered the telephone calls had been coming from owners of the hospital who’d been desperately searching for a suitable replacement hospital CEO and they’d interviewed several from in and out of Australia, along with some aspirants for the job from within the hospital. Finally in desperation those owners, all of whom I knew from international contacts, decided I was the man they wanted and they went after me with all the persuasion they could muster. Those from within the hospital who’d wanted the job were very guarded in their welcome when I arrived to orient myself on hospital operations.
After taking a look at the hospital I came to the conclusion this assignment could end up being the one that destroyed a career which had been fairly successful up to that point of time. I prepared to say no and head home leaving my friends, the owners, to find another solution to their problem.
But hospital administration realized the delay in choosing a new CEO was adding to woes of a ship already adrift so they decided to back the owners and request I accept the job too. Owners and hospital administration were finally in agreement on whom they wanted for a CEO.
My sixth sense warned me only a fool would accept that assignment as I had limited hospital administration experience. I had chaired the governing committee of an Asian based hospital system but that was not like hands on administration.
I knew there would be difficulty in getting 560 doctors and 2,500 staff behind a re-engineering program to rescue the hospital. This would take everyone outside their comfort zone and vitally affect personal space and interests. Only a fool would do this and expect to survive!
So, because I qualified as that fool I said yes, and wearily boarded a plane for Manila to break the news to my long suffering wife and university administration. We were on the move again!
The assignment was just as difficult as I’d imagined it would be, and many times during the next six years, until I retired to preserve what sanity remained, I nodded my head in agreement as I remembered that sixth sense definition of a fool! But re-engineering and millions of dollars spent on extensions worked in spite of difficulties experienced, and that hospital operates profitably today and has expanded its services through building and acquisitions.
“© Copyright Ian Grice 2014, all rights reserved”