Southern Charmer

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As APHA’s new President, Danny Sims plans to bring his New Orleans charm to bear on the politicians of Canberra. Libby Roberts spoke with Danny about his plans.

Danny Sims is working the room at an Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA) dinner. He runs into an old friend and laughter erupts almost immediately. Later he is introduced to a new colleague, soon to be an old friend, and the conversation is intense. He is interested, giving them his full attention.

This is clearly an environment in which the new President of the APHA feels right at home. He identifies as a ‘people person’ and it’s no surprise that the world of caring for others called him away from the world of corporate auditing in 1990.

“I love to tell people that I have the best job in the world.

“Healthcare and hospitals are a people business. I love being around people, talking to people, hearing people’s ideas.

“Of all the different industries that I was exposed to by being on the audit team at Ernst and Young, hospitals was where I felt the most excitement and the most affinity towards,” he said.

It was this enthusiasm for hospitals that encouraged him to leave his career at EY after nine years and accepted an offer to become Chief Financial Officer for one of his hospital audit clients, and eventually lead to 14 years with Ramsay Australia.

With his career starting in the United States, he was a health care financial executive for a variety of health care companies from 1990 to 2003, one of which was a company majority-owned by Paul Ramsay, Ramsay Health Care, Inc., in America. But the longing to move to Australia began in 2001.

After being married to his Australian-citizen wife for four years, they decided that if the opportunity arose for a job in Australia, they would take it.

Two years later, in 2003, an opportunity arose within Ramsay Australia, which saw Danny and his family move across the Pacific Ocean to become the Group Financial Controller – Hospital Operations.

The move was a brave one, especially when only three extended family members have ever moved away from their hometown of New Orleans.

“You could imagine the look on their faces when I said not only am I moving away from New Orleans, but I’m moving to Sydney Australia. Most of them had no idea where it was or what it was.”

Since his arrival with Ramsay Australia he has also been the New South Wales State Operations Manager from 2006 to 2008. Then, in 2008, he moved up to Chief Operating Officer of Ramsay’s Australian and Asian Operations.

Danny has since moved on to his current role of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Ramsay Health Care Australia, since January 2015.

It is safe to say that Australia is home now for Danny, his wife and three children, though he muses the kids might wander back to the States as they head towards their University days.

Since he became the CEO of Ramsay Health Care Australia, he has been firmly focussed on private hospitals’ role in the Australian health care system.

Quoting from memory that the industry employs over 60,000 people in Australia, he says they are all wonderful people because they work in an industry where they love people, they want to help and care for those who are sick.

“Hospital staff do an incredible job.  They are serving patients who obviously do not want to be in hospital.  The patients are in hospital because they are sick, hurt or injured. The patients need nurturing and compassionate care and that is what hospital staff deliver each and every day.  I love this industry because hospital staff are helping people who need help.”

Danny has been on the Australian Private Hospitals Association Board since 2007, but in his new role of President he will still bring the same passion he has for healthcare and people.

“First and foremost is the need to ensure the long term sustainability of the private healthcare industry, which is both the health insurance as well as the hospital industry.

“That to me is an objective of mine – to work towards and try to impact policy decisions to ensure this industry we work in has a longterm, sustainable future.

“I love to be involved. It’s challenging, dynamic, a people business and I love working with people whether it be employees, doctors, patients, or other stakeholders.”

He is already well into the business of building those relationships as he attended parliamentary visits before the end of 2016.  Also, on Tuesday 31 January 2017, he flew to Canberra specifically to meet with Australia’s new Health Minister, the Honorable Greg Hunt.

“I’m a firm believer that you need to build a relationship before you can get anything out of a relationship. The initial process is about meet and greets.

“The offering that the private hospitals provide to patients is vastly different from the public hospital offering.

“The industry is doing tremendous work in the area of quality and safety. Whilst there is always room for improvement, the statistics show that the level of quality and service that patients are receiving from private hospitals is superior.”

His career with Ramsay Health Care developed alongside his relationship with company founder, Paul Ramsay. His affection for the man, who passed away in 2014, is reflected in his approach to managing the Australian arm of the business.

“I’m sitting at my desk today, I’m staring at a picture of him across my desk on a window sill. That is there to be a constant reminder to me of the impact he has had on my life and business career.

“Paul had two sayings, one was if we offer quality care then everything else will take care of itself.”

For Sims this means that providing high quality service to patients and the doctors, and looking after employees, then the money, statistics and everything else will take care of themselves.

The other saying is simple, but in a high pressured position where you have to make decisions all the time, it’s important to “do the right thing”.

“The saying ‘do the right thing’ means thinking about what your decision is, looking into your heart and then doing the right thing. As opposed to always doing something that renders the most profitable, best position  or cost efficient outcome.

“Paul was a wonderful person. My real goal each and every day is to run the company in the way that Paul would want me to run it and in a way that he would be proud.”

But he’s not all work and no play. Sims believes in a good work life balance and has the unique ability to switch off when he crosses the threshold into his home.

“Relaxing to me is trying to wind down when I’m not at work. I try very hard to switch off when I get home and spend quality time with my wife and children.

“I do enjoy playing golf, but I get the most personal enjoyment traveling or simply spending time with my family. My boys are right into basketball at the moment so I built a small basketball court in our backyard and I enjoy getting out there and shooting hoops with them.  My leaping ability and shot making is not what it used to be, but at the moment I can still hold my own with them.  However, my 15 year old is now 6 ft, 3 inches and he practices all the time.  So I’m afraid he’ll get the better of me in the very near future.”

His fun loving and good humoured nature has also found Danny going undercover at one of Ramsay’s hospitals when he needed tests done.

“I went incognito intentionally because I didn’t want to jump the cue, I didn’t want any special service or VIP service, I just wanted to be treated as others are treated.”

Going into full Hollywood mode wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, Danny said he thinks he wasn’t recognised by the staff at the front desk and slipped under the radar as it was a busy day.

“It makes me appreciate the work that we are doing and the service we are providing, seeing it firsthand.”

Being in the health industry for 26 years now, it shows Danny’s commitment to hospitals and his genuine nature of being a people person. He is ready to roll up his sleeves as APHA President and ensure that the voices of Australia’s private hospitals will be heard.

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