JUDE BARBACK chats to Bupa New Zealand managing director Gráinne Moss about her new global role, the NZACA and equal pay.

Every now and then I allow myself to feel a little smug about balancing motherhood with a seemingly busy working life – until I think of people like Gráinne Moss, who appears to have mastered this particular juggling act. Moss has four children, the youngest six years old, and yet her career continues to go from strength to strength – a recent promotion to a global position for Bupa being the latest string to her bow.

It had been a little while since we’d had a catch-up. After general chit-chat about school camps and the daily lunch-box grind, I ask Moss about her new role, which carries the impressive title of ‘Aged Care Global Practice Lead’.

The position, which was created nearly two years ago, is aimed at sharing best practice across the Bupa aged care businesses in the UK, Australia, Spain, Latin America and of course, New Zealand.

With Bupa being the largest aged care provider on the planet, it is undoubtedly a great honour to have someone from New Zealand selected for such a big job. She humbly puts her selection down to her team.

“It is fantastic recognition of New Zealand’s strong, stable leadership team and what we’re doing here,” she says.

There is no doubting her pride in New Zealand’s Bupa operation, which she continues to manage in addition to her global role.

She believes Bupa operations in other parts of the world can learn from New Zealand’s quality customer service and its strong clinical database.

Different countries have different strengths, she says. New Zealand and Spain are both very efficient operationally owing to the funding environments, whereas Australia is very strong in marketing and presenting their propositions because of the accommodation bonds system there. Strong in technical and attitudinal training, the UK operates on a huge scale – it has the longest history with Bupa and therefore often provides a good point of comparison. For example, New Zealand Bupa recently conducted a review of its food service and looked first at what had been done in the UK.

Moss says the different sites provide opportunities to learn from each other; for example, other sites can learn from a large-scale change project in Australia.

Dementia is another big area and best practice and research around design, lighting and training are readily shared between the sites. Bupa’s global dementia expert
Dr Graham Stokes is a regular visitor to New Zealand and other Bupa sites, providing a good example of how talent can be shared across a global platform.

I ask whether the different regulatory and socio-cultural situations in each country place limitations on sharing best practice.

“I don’t think so,” says Moss. “Everything does need to be tailored right down to the individual customer’s needs anyway. We are becoming increasingly diverse. ‘Think global, act local’ is a bit of a cliché but it does help describe what we’re doing.”

Nursing strategy and competency, falls intervention and laundry are other examples where, regardless of regulatory and socio-cultural differences,

“In Spain, for example, they do their laundry at night because electricity is cheaper then,” says Gráinne. “Of course, we wouldn’t suggest New Zealand adopts this approach, but perhaps there are other aspects we could emulate that would suit our staff and clients.”

In her capacity as Bupa New Zealand’s managing director, Moss says the key priority is to continue their strong focus on the customer.

In terms of development, Bupa New Zealand’s emphasis in recent years has been on building new villages – either as an addition to an existing care facility or, if on a new site, with a care facility incorporated. A recent example was Bupa’s new Sunset Village in Blockhouse Bay, which opened earlier this year to complement Bupa’s existing Sunset Care Home.

The villages provide the returns to help subsidise the care, says Moss.

“With 4,200 beds, we’re overweight in care,” she laughs. “We haven’t built a standalone care facility in years.”

The equal pay case brought by the Service and Food Workers Union (now E tū) on behalf of caregiver Kristine Bartlett will have an impact on business for Bupa. Moss says she is heartened that people are getting around the table to find a solution.

“That’s the sort of person I am anyway,” she says. “I think these things should be sorted out around the table. I have great respect for the judiciary system, but I believe public policy needs to be set by the right people.

“At the end of the day we’re not a well-funded industry, and we do our best to pay our staff well. Anything that values our staff more is a good thing.”

Bupa joined the NZACA last year and Moss says she is really enjoying her involvement with the association. She sits on the NZACA board.

“I feel we can offer a lot. We are a good employer. Around the board table there is a range of different CEOs with different styles and skills. I feel I bring some expertise around people and the operational side of things.”

Moss credits this to her prior experience running the care homes division before climbing the rungs in Bupa.

And now, with the recent appointment to the global position, Moss has climbed yet another rung. As I finish my interview, I reflect on the ongoing and simmering issues around women’s equality in the workplace and in the boardroom. Our conversation didn’t flow into feminism but I couldn’t help but think that Moss’s consummate leadership sets an excellent example not only for Bupa, but also for the entire aged care sector.

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