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Challenges faced by a CEO of a corporate hospital without being a medical doctor

I am from the Executive branch of Indian Navy, and after 28 years of commissioned service I took premature retirement at the age of 49 in the senior rank of Commodore, which is equivalent to a Brigadier in the Army and Air Commodore in the Indian Air Force.

After shifting to Bangalore. I joined Mallya Hospital as Vice President (Admin) on Dec 9, 1996, without any experience, whatsoever, in the healthcare industry. During all my interviews by the higher echelons of the Mallya Hospital group, it was drilled into me that running a multi-speciality corporate hospital in the heart of Bangalore was definitely not my forte. Snide remarks by senior consultants of the hospital were common: “what does this guy know about the intricacies of healthcare? He will be thrown out by the management within six months, wait and watch.” It is another matter that in May 1999 I was promoted to the post of President & CEO of Mallya Hospital and finally retired on April 11, 2020, after serving for 23 years and 4 months!

Senior medical specialists of various important specialties like cardiology, medical, gastroentrology, urology, orthopedics, general surgery, gynecology, endocrinology, neo-natology, ICU intensivists, anesthesiologists, etc., have their respective egos and are not ready to accept that the President of a hospital is a non-medical person. And not only that, I was not only the President-cum-CEO but also chaired the most important committees like the medical executive committee, infection control committee, ethics committee, etc. Medical executive committee was the highest body to decide selection of senior specialists in various specialties, and was held once a month. Very senior specialists from various medical branches were the members of this committee (total 5), including the medical director of the hospital. I became half-a-doctor myself, and could conduct medex and ethics committee meetings without any difficulty. But it was a great challenge. I had to acquire basic knowledge of various specialties and treat senior doctors of all specialties with respect and yet with all humility at my command convey the simple fact that as the President-cum-CEO of the hospital, I was running the whole show and I was the one responsible and accountable to the management. Not only polite and tactful handling of all specialists was an enormous task, learning about various advanced medical equipment fitted in the hospital was indeed another challenge. To purchase new equipment, I used to form small committees, consisting of medical specialists and bio-medical equipment specialists who would advise me on the advantages and disadvantages of various types of equipment whether it was GE, Siemens, or Philips, etc. Once the correct equipment was identified, cost factor would be put up to the management and final decision arrived at. At the end of it all, I can proudly state that I had acquired almost in-depth knowledge of all major and minor medical equipment fitted in the hospital.

Handling consultants and acquiring knowledge of their equipment were indeed two major challenges. Another difficult aspect of running a hospital was acquiring basic knowledge of all major and minor diseases. During my monthly rounds of the wards and ICUs, I used to familiarize myself with the patient files at the nursing stations before visiting patients at a particular floor. I had to be doubly careful when visiting patients in the Medical ICU, Surgical ICU, CCU, NICU, etc., to understand the problems of the patients. I would meet their relatives outside the ICUs and interact with them. I wish to emphasize that my rounds of wards and ICUs were carried out in my capacity as the President-cum-CEO. Junior doctors, specialists, consultants, and medical director would take their regular rounds purely from point of view of monitoring the treatment being given to the patients pertaining to the diagnosis of the ailment.

Finally, it was a herculean task handling the relatives of patients, who lost their lives in the hospital. Also handling of the media was another challenge. Mallya Hospital being one of the first corporate hospitals of Bangalore, almost all VVIPs and VIPs preferred to be admitted here, due to very highly qualified specialist doctors and the best medical care available.

At the end of my tenure I was indeed happy that I acquired in-depth knowledge in the healthcare, besides being a missile and gun specialist of the Indian Navy.

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