Australia’s private hospitals have their first all-female leadership team after Christine Gee and Carmel Monaghan were elected President and Vice-President of the Australian Private Hospitals Association (APHA).
The women, both well-known to the private hospital sector, were elected unopposed by the newly-elected APHA Council at its first meeting in November 2022.
Ms Gee has been Acting President since Dr Lachlan Henderson stood down in October, and was APHA’s first female President in her first term in 2006 and took the reins again in 2016.
She is the CEO of Toowong Private Hospital, a standalone private psychiatric facility, and holds a number of leadership roles advocating for quality and safety in healthcare, including as a Board member of the Australian Commission on Safety and Quality, including chairing a number of committees for the Commission.
Ms Gee also chairs the Medical Board of Australia’s National Special Issues Committee and is a Board member of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
Ms Monaghan is CEO of Ramsay Health Care Australia, the country’s largest private hospital group, and has been an APHA Board member since taking up that role in 2020.
Ms Gee said a leadership team representing both a large group and an independent hospital showed the diversity of APHA membership and that all voices were at the table.
“APHA represents every type of private hospital in Australia, from day surgeries through to for-profit and non-profit groups," she said.
"And each is represented on Council, so the issues and views of the whole private hospital sector go into our representations to governments, our submissions and our public comments.”
Ms Gee said the key issue for the health industry at present was workforce shortages, but a number of other issues were always under discussion such as elective surgery backlogs and the cost of private healthcare insurance.
“The health sector is suffering from a significant health workforce shortage and we need to do a lot more to attract people to Australia to work. Making it easier to gain residency, reducing red tape – these are just a few things government can do to draw people here," she said.
“In addition, there are elective surgery backlogs private hospitals are assisting public hospitals to manage, various government reforms like the prostheses list and the ongoing issue of Australians valuing private healthcare – marred in recent times by private health insurers' massive profits during the COVID-19 pandemic that have not been returned to members.”
Ms Monaghan said the private hospital sector was an essential part of the balanced healthcare systems that Australians relied on.
“This was thrown into stark relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. Australia’s health system pulled together, which was a good thing because the public hospital sector would not have coped with the pandemic without the support of private hospitals," she said.
"Private hospitals sent staff into aged care homes to care for elderly residents, staffed vaccination clinics and cared for patients with COVID-19. Private hospitals were some of the first to manage COVID-19 patients from cruise ships in Western Australia.
“Australia’s private hospitals offer high-quality care, with choice of doctor, choice of room and surgery at a date and time that suits our patients. These options are well-sought-after, particularly with a public system even more under-strain than usual with significant waiting lists for elective surgery.”
APHA CEO Michael Roff welcomed the appointments of the new President and Vice President.
“In Christine and Carmel we have two strong leaders in Australia’s private hospital sector. Both have a great deal of experience across the sector and many years working in private hospitals, in different roles," he said.
"I look forward to working with them to continue Australia’s healthcare system's world-leading status.”