How covid-19 ramped up collaboration at a Brussels hospital, a great example of internal collaboration.

The sudden coronavirus outbreak shook them up and forced them to adopt a quick, flexible and agile management style that left the institution’s nearly 4,000 employees plenty of responsibility and room for initiatives. He explained how before Covid-19, it would have taken dozens of meetings to decide on a new colour of wallpaper, while at the beginning of the lockdown they did a complete overhaul of the organization and structure of the hospital in only three days. The virus taught him that:

  • having a clear vision clearly
  • projecting goals and needs
  • showing clear leadership and
  • communicating all of the above in simple but clear guidelines was enough to guide people as they took action themselves.

It stimulated his staff to look for the right type of internal collaboration to make things happen. As there was no time to lose—the virus was suddenly upon us and hospitals needed to be ready to receive huge numbers of patients—a crash course in change management was executed.

About 700 employees started to work from home and had to reconfigure healthcare remotely. When asked the critical question as to whether his entire staff followed this sudden change in working methods, he replied that 10% didn’t listen, didn’t cope well or simply didn’t do the work appropriately. But instead of focusing on this 10%, he preferred to stimulate the other 90%, who have proven to be open-minded about wanting to build the best possible hospital for their patients.

Setting out clear goals, letting people see the bigger picture, leading by example and letting your staff figure out for themselves how they can achieve a change in plans is the spirit that Noppen applies now. He is a compelling voice in the public debate for more reforms of the public health system. Tele consultations for general practitioners had been under debate for more than five years. During the corona crisis, it only took a handful of days to set it up successfully. Noppen can only hope that this and other reforms aimed at modernizing hospitals and healthcare will be introduced. He is definitely a game-changer and is currently advocating European-wide collaboration to tackle the next pandemic.


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