St John of God Hospital new chief’s community focus

LEADER: St John of God Ballarat Hospital's chief executive officer Alex Demidov wants to grow the hospital and keep community connections intact. Picture Lachlan Bence

LEADER: St John of God Ballarat Hospital's chief executive officer Alex Demidov wants to grow the hospital and keep community connections intact. Picture Lachlan Bence

BEFORE Alex Demidov applied for a hospital job in Ballarat, he took a walk about the wards.

As a complete unknown person, Mr Demidov felt it was an easy way to gauge culture in St John of God Ballarat Hospital: whether staff approached him to help, staff body language and interaction with patients.

The St John of God Ballarat’s new chief executive officer’s sensitivities follow a proliferation of headlines in recent years of problems with bullying culture in other regional health services. He has also worked in hospitals in Sydney where there was a poor culture.

Mr Demidov has been impressed with the care for patients and strong sense of connection between the hospital and the community since arriving in Ballarat four weeks ago.

The challenge, he said, was in keeping such positive bonds intact while developing the hospital to meet the increasing demands of a growing regional city.

“St John of God really means something to this community. People walk up to me now, really interested to meet me,” Mr Demidov said. “Our challenge is about enabling growth without losing that. Today we’re at more than 100 per cent occupancy during the day with the emergency department and elective surgery going on at the same time. The next 12 months our real aim was to grow the hospital capability and services to get to where we need to be.”

Mr Demidov arrives from Sydney where he was chief executive officer for private health care service provider Evolution Health Care.

A former lawyer (he studied at Harvard University) turned nurse, Mr Demidov looked forward to returning to a clinical environment.

Mr Demidov brings extensive experience from almost 25 years working in health, including roles at Healthscope, Sydney Adventist Hospital, Nepean Private Hospital and St Vicent’s Private.

He will bring his young family to Ballarat for a chance of pace to Sydney where it was at least a 1½ hour commute from their Palm Beach home to Circular Quay.

“The hustle and bustle is something I won’t miss,” Mr Demidov said. “There are really good schools here...the opportunity here is a great one. This hospital is a little bit different to ones I’ve worked in before: this is an organisation that cares for its community and the community really cares back.”