From military medical officer to health executive

Our Roving Reporter Clare Watson chats to Ros Blakley, General Manager, Bupa Medical.              

Clare: Ros, let’s start with your current role. Since 2014, you have been managing Bupa Medical, a branch of the Bupa healthcare group that delivers primary health care services through city-based GP clinics and Telehealth services for regional residents. What does a normal day look like for you in this role? What have you enjoyed most in your day today?

Ros: There are three main areas that I am responsible for: operations, clinical development and governance. Operations is managing our primary care strategy and executing Bupa’s aspirations in multidisciplinary care to provide team-based, coordinated primary care in one location for patients. Bupa, originally a health insurer in Australia, is now cementing our place in health care provision.

I also am one of the national medical directors for Bupa for the Australian-New Zealand market. I primarily have responsibility for the leadership and development of our clinical workforce. This entails developing our strategy for how we can – as a new business in health care provision – attract, retain and develop our clinical workforce, which I find really exciting. I also head up clinical governance, as well as driving our safety culture, across our health services, so that includes our dental, optical and primary care facilities.

At any one point in my day, I could be doing one of these three things, somehow combined or separately. In a management position like this, you need to be able to change tact at any minute or hour of the day, from one topic to another – but I enjoy that.

In my role, I really enjoy realising change. I am very much a person who can’t fix something just for me. I could spend my day just fixing my little part of Bupa but if I see an opportunity to fix a bigger thing that realises the root cause, then let’s fix the root cause because then everyone benefits.

Clare: You completed your medical training at the University of Queensland. What was your medical specialisation and why did you pursue it?

Ros: I had committed to military medicine before I had even finished my training. I actually joined the army in my fourth year of the undergraduate program so I set my path to the military at that point [but there were other specialisations that I considered].

In my first two years in the hospital system, I became very passionate about orthopaedics and loved that immensely. I considered doing [orthopaedics] as a career until I decided that I had already had two children and that I didn’t want a 24-hour 7-day week role.

I did get most of the way through my fellowship with the College of General Practice but that was when the college was brand new and it was not flexible. The college didn’t really understand the military – any time that you did with the military [as a medical officer] wasn’t accredited; they said it didn’t count as real medicine. There was a real disconnect between capability and experience, and what the college viewed as reasonable. I couldn’t meet their requirements because I was going here, there and everywhere [with the military].

I spoke to the Chief of the army and said that you won’t be able to recruit and train doctors if this is the view that the college takes [– if they don’t recognise military experience]. We needed to engage with the college, help them realise what it is we do and get consideration of the skill set we have. The college now has a direct liaison with the military. More...