Dr Andrew Montague is currently Chief Executive of Central Coast Local Health District, where he is responsible for upholding healthcare services for the community of 350,000 people, alongside his 7,000-strong team.
What was your first job out of University and how did it shape your future career path?
I am a medical doctor by background and my first role was an intern at Concord Hospital in Sydney. I had always wanted to be in the healthcare sector, and I think the fantastic experience I had with Concord really helped in cementing that. One of the things I really liked about it was the team work and the sense of camaraderie among the staff.
In terms of how that shaped my career path, helping people has always been part of my wider ambition, so naturally my first choice was to be a doctor. However, upon completing my general practitioner fellowship, I discovered my interest for healthcare systems management. While I initially combined a management role with that of treating patients, I eventually made the decision to go into a pure management role in 2008 as that was where my passion lies.
Who has inspired you the most in your career?
I have had many people who have inspired me throughout my career, but one that has stood out was the Chief Executive I last worked for at Northern Sydney Local Health District, Vicki Taylor. When I was in a more junior management role I saw the incredible way she not only managed, but led the health service – I learned a lot from her about being a leader. That certainly inspired me to start thinking about where I wanted to head in the next five to ten years, and most definitely cemented my career path.
Were there any challenges along the way for you to reach this point in your career?
I believe I have been pretty lucky throughout my career such that when I set my mind to something I have been fortunate enough to achieve that. That said, I guess the main challenge is realising and accepting that you will have limitations, and then looking for ways to improve. The first step is to ensure you get a certain degree of exposure to those areas so you can improve; but equally as important is to make sure you have a team that has strengths in those areas you are not as strong in.
What is the most rewarding part of your current role?
It is still very much similar my main driver for getting into healthcare – the ability to help people. More often than not, not only do you help the patients, but also their families and carers. By being able to influence the healthcare system, we can help ensure that people get equitable access to the best possible care and health outcomes. That is the most rewarding part of my role.
What are your top tips for aspiring leaders? How can they break through to the executive ranks?
The most important advice is to be resilient and confident in your ability. In order to break through the ranks, it’s all about ensuring you have the right experience to back it up. On top of that, make sure you always take the opportunity to put your hand up when project roles come up. This will allow you to start forming a good network of contacts, so you have more opportunities to put yourself in the right place to secure the role you want.
As a leader in medicine and healthcare, how has the discipline changed in recent years?
The whole approach to patient care has radically transformed. With plenty of information available anytime, anywhere, consumers are more aware and better informed today. As a result, while this empowers them with more information to assess their ailments, their expectations in terms of what the system can provide are also much greater.
Digital disruption has also brought about unprecedented changes for the healthcare sector. Aside from the ease of access to information consumers get, technology is also helping to speed up medical discovery and R&D – many conditions that were previously untreatable now have a cure.
What are the biggest challenges facing the government healthcare sector right now?
As with most healthcare systems around the world, Australia is experiencing an ageing population, increasing chronic disease and the obesity epidemic. We have also got rising costs as a result of new technologies; whilst at the same time, funding availability isn’t growing at the same rate. I believe the biggest challenge for health systems is trying to get the best possible and value based care with limited resources.
What made you gravitate toward working with the Central Coast Local Health District?
I have had the opportunity to act as Chief Executive with Northern Sydney Local Health District, so when this opportunity came up, I felt like I was ready to take the next step. What attracted me to the Central Coast is the community feel of the Local Health District, and the fact that the health service is made up of really good people wanting to provide the best possible care for patients.
What are the benefits of working with an executive recruiter?
It is always challenging to fill a role without a good understanding of the potential candidate market and the size of it. For instance, some people may not interested in a move at this point, but are not completely against it as well, so it is an opportunity to reach out to them. However in order to suss out these candidates, there is a lot of ground work that needs to be done. Having people come in with that ready expertise really does help in securing the best talent out there.