Michael Quirke is the Chief Operating Officer for Mercy Radiology and the Director of Strategic Partnerships for Healthcare Holdings – the parent company of MercyAscot Hospitals. Michael is the current Chair of the Child Poverty Action Group and is a board member of the Auckland District Health Board.
How can New Zealand meaningfully address the inequities that exist in our healthcare system? This is an ongoing question and pressing concern for Michael Quirke in his various roles across our health sector.
“It is not right that we, as a small wealthy nation, have such significant disparities for our Māori and Pasifika whanau accessing healthcare services,” he says. “Despite talking about change for 15 years, the last $200 billion we have spent on delivering healthcare to New Zealanders has not shifted the equity dial at all.”
Michael points to poverty drivers such as low wages, limited access to healthy and affordable housing, and a poorly designed and inadequate welfare system as having significant detrimental impacts on the healthcare needs for some of our most vulnerable.
“I hope that in a post-Covid world we may have a chance to create a fairer and more effective normal; to go beyond just recognising these failings and take ourselves into true change territory.”
Michael learnt first–hand as a teenager, the difference healthcare can make even in the most poverty-stricken of circumstances. After finishing his final year at St Peter’s College in Auckland, he travelled to India and worked as a volunteer at Mother Teresa’s Kalighat – a home for the dying in central Kolkata (Calcutta).
“It was a game changer,” he says.
“I intended to study law when I returned to New Zealand, however my experience in India helped me become increasingly appreciative of the healthcare world and internally suspicious of my own suitability for law.”
Instead he did an Arts/Health Science conjoint and followed it up with an MBA. He then spent several years working for Healthscope in Sydney as General Manager of their Medical Centre division before returning home and spending four years at the helm of the Auckland Surgical Centre.
In 2018 he joined Mercy Radiology as their Chief Operating Officer and teamed up with another leader in the healthcare field out of the University of Auckland – CEO Dr Lloyd McCann. Together they have driven a successful digital and bionic leadership agenda which has seen them present across multiple platforms on digital enablement, clinical AI algorithms and robotic process automation.
Peripheral to Michael’s formal career is his governance involvement in both the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) and the Auckland DHB. He joined CPAG in 2015 after returning from Sydney “outraged at the lack of acknowledgement of the appalling child poverty statistics we see here in New Zealand”.
In 2019 he was appointed to the board of the Auckland DHB and says he relishes the opportunity to work in a governance capacity for a highly skilled organisation of 11,000+ people.
From a leadership perspective, Michael is keenly aware of the importance of listening carefully and responding measuredly.
He recalls an incident from his youth that taught him an important career lesson. As a young striker working hard to stake his position for Auckland City FC’s first National League season, Michael was dropped from the final squad the week before the league started. But it was the way in which he was dropped by coach Alan Jones that really resonated with him. “He quietly pulled me aside and gave me the bad news with such clarity and rationale that it softened the blow and helped me understand his decision clearly.”
“In business and in healthcare, leaders are often required to make tough decisions that impact various parties. By communicating such news with clarity is to deliver it effectively, yet also with kindness.”