In this vast, muddied pool of humanity that revolves around the socioeconomic and political space, a deeply rooted apathy permeates some of our leaders in the health industry. There are some industries and companies that thrive and profit on human vulnerability. Medical aid schemes are no different. They are supposed to display compassion, care, help and support in times of dire need and stress, particularly when the health and life of a loved one is at stake. However, a lack of conscious leadership in the current system of procedure, process and profit often allows for ethical irregularity.
In the past week, I have experienced the undoubtedly questionable behaviour of a company not acting in good faith. A medical aid scheme found every excuse in the book not to authorise and acknowledge the in-hospital costs of a young man who was unexpectedly admitted in a critical condition to the intensive care unit of a private hospital with a previously undiagnosed condition. Even though the medical aid scheme had full access to his medical records that stated he had no pre-existing condition, it refused to honour the authorisation while searching for any procedural avenue to avoid paying the bill.
The realistic expectations of what should have happened — and what did — is sobering and throws the spotlight on greedy establishments and their myopic and morally bereft leadership whose focus on the bottom line trumps the basic tenets of humanity and care.
This is not the first time a medical aid scheme acted in bad faith. As just one example, in November 2016, Profmed terminated the membership of a primary member and refused to honour the bills for “several medical procedures” and argued that the member had failed to disclose medical procedures that would have allowed it to properly calculate her risk as a member. However, when the member took Profmed to court, the judge ruled in her favour, saying that, “There is no duty on a prospective applicant for medical insurance… to disclose a condition that is immaterial or non-existent”.
This raises serious questions of trust and credibility issues regarding the financial behaviour, integrity, governance, ethics and conscious leadership of some medical aid schemes. We may never understand why the companies and individuals in whom we trust renege the way that they do, particularly in times of crisis.
However, it is enough to know that one of the principles of conscious leadership is putting people and humanity at the core of everything one does. Those in positions of power and responsibility influence hundreds and thousands of lives by their actions. Everything they do and say, the way they feel and behave, act and react, inspires and guides or manipulates and controls the stakeholders they affect within their sphere.
It is, therefore, imperative that people in leadership positions, regardless of who they lead, wear the mantle of responsibility with care, because this is intricately woven into who they are as human beings. This is a foreign concept to some leaders, who are clueless about responsible, conscious leadership and the consequences of their unconscionable actions that shape the moral muscle and perception of their organisations.
Their focus on the bottom line somehow impedes their ability to create a culture of trust, care and compassion, or to display a sense of humanity towards the weak and vulnerable people they are supposed to serve. It is quite inevitable that any company worth its salt has to make the transition from mere profit-taking and higher margins to a culture of service, particularly in the health industry.
Some leaders, rather than embrace conscious, ethical leadership, lack a sense of self and the capacity of courage to disrupt and change the status quo of an industry that has, over the years, gained a reputation for the questionable behaviour of not placing the wellbeing of the people it serves at the core of what it do.
Conscious leadership demands the surrender of greed, self-interest and ego for integrity, service and selfless action. Perhaps we are not as far along as we would like to be, consciously. Perhaps managing shareholder expectations still takes priority over authentic accountability and collective purpose. Perhaps our attempt to shift the way of being for leaders to awaken into the power of consciousness towards a moral code of kindness and societal wellbeing is near impossible.
However, all is not lost. Our immediate hope for a better world — despite the silent, shrieking hell of a global economic crisis, devastating war, continuous drudgery and untold suffering — is that the human spirit is resilient beyond belief. There is also overwhelming evidence that the promise of hope rests with those conscious leaders who serve selflessly because they have a profound sense of responsibility and find it impossible to remain indifferent to a deep call from the core of their beings to serve with vision, purpose and compassion.