Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali-Hadebe

Chief executive, Bertha Gxowa Hospital

Becoming the youngest hospital chief executive in South Africa at age 31, Dr Nokwethemba Mtshali-Hadebe takes her role as a trailblazer seriously, saying she’s acutely aware that the example she sets should ease the way for those who follow.

This University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) graduate, who always knew she wanted to be in a healing profession, is frank that she’s the “poster child for all the stereotypes: I’m black, I’m young and I’m female”. So she’s determined to work harder and do better: “I know I have to step up, not just for me but for all those groups. I need to prove these pre-conceived judgments wrong.” Mtshali-Hadebe heads up Bertha Gxowa Hospital in Germiston, a district hospital with 767 staff.

She was appointed permanently last year after being acting chief executive from 2015. At UKZN, Mtshali-Hadebe played an active role in student politics, becoming the university’s first female president of the medical school SRC. After graduating, she completed her internship at the Helen Joseph Memorial Hospital, and her community service at KwaMhlanga Hospital in Mpumalanga. “I didn’t know I wanted to be a manager until I began working as a doctor. I slowly realised that my passion lay in the administration side, where I could impact health at the systems level,” she says.

After a stint in the private sector, Mtshali-Hadebe was instrumental in driving up standards as clinical manager at the Far East Rand Hospital, identifying service delivery challenges and risks, and implementing and monitoring improvement plans. She also completed her MBA at the University of the Witwatersrand during this time. “That gave me the confidence to successfully manage people and improve staff satisfaction, while ultimately ensuring better productivity and so better outcomes for patients,” she explains.

At Bertha Gxowa Hospital, Mtshali-Hadebe has worked hard to improve staff motivation and commitment through good communication and transparency, establishing merit awards and introducing regular news bulletins. “Every staff member needs to be part of my vision for the hospital, from the doctors to the cleaners. I want them all to know how important they are to our joint success,” she says. Mtshali-Hadebe also does weekly walkabouts to keep her finger on the pulse regarding issues and challenges. In her leisure time, she focuses on her family, is an avid reader, and watches documentaries.

– Di Caelers

Twitter: @nokwe1021