PoliceHealth ScottWilliamsWEBBy Police Health CEO Scott Williams

I feel very fortunate to be the CEO for Police Health and Emergency Services Health. 

My dad was a police officer, which instilled a very high level of integrity, probity and doing the right thing - a great connection with the values of Police Health. Being the son of a police officer meant you were probably under a bit more scrutiny than with most parents. For example, my dad’s philosophy that if you were too sick to go to school you were also too sick to watch TV in the lounge room. If ever I got to stay home dad would do these unannounced spot checks to ensure that we were in bed. I thought I could get away with keeping my ear out for the sound of gravel being crushed under the wheels of dad’s car as he returned home, then quickly jump into bed. But dad, being a Detective, got wise to that and started to feel the back of the TV to see if it was hot.

Originally heralding form Port Augusta, a smallish country town in South Australia, we relocated to Darwin in the Northern Territory in 1973 when my father was accepted in to the NT Police. I basically grew up in Darwin, Alice Springs and a remote aboriginal settlement known as Papunya. As a child growing up in those times and indeed places I was afforded opportunities and experiences that many kids my age weren’t, something I know now I took for granted at the time.

We also were in Darwin at the time of Cyclone Tracy (and two further cyclones although neither lived up to the decimation of Tracy). I was only two at the time so my memory is not the best but I remember being upset as dad had to stay back after we left. We lost our roof early on in the cyclone and had to move to the neighbour’s house. While my memory is not crisp, to this day if it’s windy and raining I get an unsettled feeling that won’t shift.

Some of my favourite memories have been living in remote places. It’s tough. It’s hard. It’s isolating. You can certainly save a lot of money because there’s nothing to spend it on. But there is a greater sense of community in some of these rural and remote places because really, you only have each other.

I loved the feeling of isolation living remotely. There’s nothing better than just sitting on the bonnet of a car on a dirt road in central remote Australia and feeling that sense of being so small in such a vast country. Something we don’t sense living in a bustling metropolis.

In addition to my upbringing as the son of a copper I have a career history in health. My nan was my inspiration for choosing to become a nurse. She was an enrolled nurse in a country hospital, the only one in my family on either side that was from a health background. Sadly, she passed away in 1988, right at the time of my Year 11 exams. I hadn’t at that point made my mind up as to what I was going to do, and I believe now that her passing was probably the deciding factor for me to choose a career in terms of nursing.

I was very fortunate to begin my career doing hospital-based training as a nurse, because I was exposed to so much at a relatively young age. At 17, I was working on a ward caring for six or more patients with anything from a stroke to an amputation. Looking back now it was a lot for a 17 year-old to deal with. I later did my Bachelor’s degree, specialising in paediatric nursing, so I’m a trained children’s nurse as well.

I had to lay out my first body when I was 17 and a half years old. I remember being fortunate to be paired with a very senior nurse. She chatted to the deceased patient throughout the process of preparing her body. I questioned her afterwards, as to why she had done that as it seemed “a bit weird”.

Her response to me was that, however you choose to look at it, there was a person present. They may be there in a different way, shape, or form from when they were alive but they were still a person. They still had a history; and therefore it was more about being respectful for the situation you were in as opposed to talking about what you did last night. That nurse set me on a very strong path around ethical behaviour.

Moving into children’s nursing was generally a positive experience, as children have this amazing propensity for crashing one minute with a bounce back recovery that as adults we can only envy.

Another strong memory for me is of a patient that I advocated for to stay in the hospital, because they didn’t want to get transferred. He was passing away, but he referred to the fact we were like family and he knew everyone around him, so he didn’t want to go to a hospice. I remember advocating on his behalf to keep him there and him being so grateful. He gave me a soccer ball in thanks, and at the time I didn’t realise the significance of that, but he had been brought over from Italy to play soccer for Australia. Absolutely amazing guy.

I’ve worked across the country; from rural South Australia, rural Victoria, and New South Wales to metropolitan Adelaide, before moving to the UK for about 10 years. I worked for the National Health Service in the UK, and while there, I transitioned into my first management role. By the end of my 10 years I was managing a large tertiary health service, specifically emergency medicine with about 1000 medical beds over three sites and three emergency departments. Something that was a massive challenge in the winter months.

I came back to Australia in 2008 with three children in tow – all with little British accents – and ended up (after some time) securing the second in charge at the Women’s and Children’s Hospital in Adelaide. I learnt a lot transitioning back into the Australian health care system after being out for about 10 years.

From there I became the CEO of a not-for-profit private hospital, which is a community operated and owned hospital in Campbelltown, South Australia. What I particularly loved about that opportunity was that it had a really true sense of community and what I’d call a strong set of values and work ethic, which sits well with me.

Now with my new role, I get to combine the worlds of my history within the policing family with my experience working in the health industry, which I think is a perfect combination for a role like this.

I love that we are an organisation that is national and member owned. There’s an expectation that we need to understand the difference between metropolitan living, and rural and remote living - and how we can best support our members in those vastly different environments.

As an organisation, we’re just about to embark on our next big strategic planning process. It’s quite an exciting time to come on board as a CEO because you get to play a part in setting the agenda for the next three to five years or beyond. We also, I strongly believe, have a Board that have a genuine interest and appetite in wanting us to go from strength to strength.

If I look at the two arms of the organisation, firstly Emergency Services Health, I think one of the most fundamental objectives is to get our name out there and for people to understand we exist. For some of those specialties, it will be the first time they’re going to get a choice of belonging to what is a restricted access fund - and a fund that will understand them better than some of their existing open funds they may be members of.

In terms of Police Health, we have seen continued growth year on year, which is often against the trend of what you hear about private health cover. It’s about making sure all of our police officers across the country are given the choice of cover that they decide on.

Now, I don’t want to ever be accused of being overly ambitious but why do we need to stop within the borders of Australia? Why set our sights to just be the best health insurer in the country? Why not be the best health insurer in the world? I think there's always something especially motivating about having a desire. Now I should have prefaced that statement with saying this is not about me being power mad, but because of a recent conversation I had with a police officer. The officer made a point of saying they can be anywhere in the world and if they show their warrant badge to another officer there's an immediate understanding between each other about their environment which is virtually unspoken. If that’s the case with two police officers in two different countries, who’s to say that can’t be the case for an insurer?