As CFO of Sidra Medicine, a hospital in Qatar, Loretta Seamer FCPA is drawing on her passion for finance and helping people.
Joined Sidra Medicine in March 2018 as CFO, a not-for-profit health organisation for public benefit in Qatar providing tertiary children’s and women’s services.
The CFO’s team has 80 staff in the finance and revenue management sector serving an organisation with 4500 employees and a hospital of 470 beds.
Formerly worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in London.
The role: focus on teams
You can plan your career to a certain extent, but sometimes surprising opportunities come along in life. Working in Doha, Qatar, is one such opportunity for me.
In a new hospital that provides women and children with world-class tertiary healthcare services, my responsibilities include strategic financial planning, financial management, financial operations functions and managing the revenue cycle. This includes negotiating with private insurance and government funders, and working with our executive team to develop services and relationships in and outside the organisation.
I have been working in the health sector, firstly in Australia, then the UK and now the Middle East, since 2002, and draw on my experience in private and public sector health care and from experience as a consultant in health planning. The health sector in Qatar is growing and developing, and the hospital provides services not previously undertaken in this country.
We are also committed to developing local finance graduates and mentoring and guiding them on their career path.
Game changers: the next challenge
In the 1980s and 1990s, I worked mainly in private organisations across various industries, including manufacturing, mining, construction, banking, local government, and retail and wholesale distribution. This provided me with a wide base of experience.
There are two pivotal points in my career that provided not only personal growth, but also opportunities to move into new career paths of interest. In 2000, I realised I needed to expand my knowledge beyond the technical and operational side of finance to understand more about business strategy, governance and operations.
I undertook an MBA through the University of Queensland, and completed the graduate program of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. During this time I took on a role in the health sector at a not-for-profit hospital providing private and public hospital services. My daily focus was on business development, financial management and contract management and negotiations.
The next game changer was the chance to move into a consulting firm as general manager, and to concentrate on strategic health services planning, including health infrastructure planning for clients in Australia. After five years in this role, I moved back into the hospital sector in a CFO role at Children’s Health Queensland to support and manage, in conjunction with the executive team, the merger of the two tertiary children’s hospital services in Queensland to form the new Queensland Children’s Hospital.
As a person who thrives on new challenges, I then went to the UK to work at the world renowned tertiary children’s hospital, Great Ormond Street Hospital, which opened the way for my current role in the Middle East.
Along the way, I also had the privilege of getting involved in CPA Australia, starting on the corporate committee in Queensland, and then being elected to Divisional Council and going on to represent the state as Queensland president in 2007-08.
All of that wonderful experience in advocating for your professional group and taking on a leadership role is invaluable to build soft skills as opposed to technical skills.
Sidra Medicine's challenge: service imperative
The challenge for Sidra Medicine is to ensure we understand the health demands in the region and for our services. We must offer appropriate costing and pricing models, link them to our service model of care and ensure we are serving Qatar and the region.
Health care in countries such as Australia, the US and the UK has well-established economic and pricing models for the public and private sectors.
Establishing any new hospital service is always challenging, in particular, where new teams are working together for the first time and providing new services. Qatar has a well-established public health system and some private hospitals, and is in the process of developing a national insurance model for public funding and also has many private insurance providers in the market. The country has economic and geopolitical challenges, but it is independent and self-reliant.
The Doha hospital is now providing tertiary services for children who would otherwise have had to travel abroad for services, and it is the first such facility in the Middle East to have this level of care. In addition, it is now attracting international patients seeking treatment in a growing private health market.
In my role I need to ensure that our organisation can be competitive in the international and private healthcare market and operate efficiently and effectively with the highest quality of care for our patients. It is a complex role but the key, in addition to drawing on emotional intelligence, is having cultural intelligence so that you appreciate the people you are working with and manage what can be a complex environment.
I have found my niche.
Lessons learned and best advice
Understand the strategic mission and vision
Develop your operational plan to achieve your goals. Break this down into key initiatives for you and your teams as action plans, so that every staff member can align and contribute to achieving.
Listen to the frontline people
They know what is going well and not so well. Build this feedback into continuous improvement plans.
Look outside your organisation
Engage with industry groups to share ideas. Engage in opportunities to benchmark or compare your organisation.
Get involved in community or professional groups. Develop other skills and networks outside of your organisation or industry.
Check up: what skills do accountants working in healthcare need?