Member Profile - George Fricker
George is a Past Secretary Victoria Branch IHEA and Past Fellow of IHEA for more years than he cares to remember. His career highlights include design, construct, equip, test and commission and maintain five major hospitals in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and Qatar
He also assisted in the privatization of support services for thirty-three hospitals and four institutions in Malaysia with over one thousand staff. Always a joy to engage with, we sat down recently with George as he shared his five minutes of wisdom with the membership team.
Thank you for your time George. Can you share with us your professional history.
My first major role was as the Director Building and Engineering Services at Prince Henry's Hospital/Monash Medical Centre Victoria. From here I had many roles before finding myself in Doha, Qatar as the Project Engineer for the Al Ahli Hospital Project in 2003.
I was then M&E Senior Biomedical Engineer for Sarawak International Medical Centre, Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia, which required full compliance with Malaysian Laws and regulations and international codes of best practice.
The next major international role was in Bangkok Thailand as the Senior Engineering Consultant of Vamed Healthcare Services Thailand which was challenging as I needed to plan and implement vast improvements to local maintenance attitudes and practices. Finally, I made my way back to Australia as Facilities Manager at St Vincent’s Private Hospital Toowoomba.
These days, I find myself consulting for Hospital Energy Management Advisory Committee (HEMAC), public speaking engagements and my new obsession of helicopters, drones and other airborne technology.
What was the catalyst that began your healthcare engineering career?
While studying for my degree in Mechanical Engineering at Swinburne, I worked during holidays and as part of my course work experience in the Engineering Department at Prince Henry’s Hospital in Melbourne under the mentorship of the chief Engineer Bob Cottrill. He encouraged me to pursue a career in Hospital Engineering. Bob was IFHE president in 1984, he was tough but fair and an excellent role model.
What was the most valuable trait that ensured your healthcare engineering career success?
A willingness to learn and to respect and communicate well with everyone, regardless of background or nationality.
What career accomplishment makes you most proud?
The privatization of support services for 33 Hospitals and 4 Institutions in Peninsular Malaysia totaling over 9,796 beds.
What mistake did you make that you are thankful occurred?
In my early days at Prince Henry’s Hospital, I was given the job of designing, documenting, tendering and supervising construction of a new mortuary. I designed some beautifully made stainless steel body trolleys with a raised ridge in the middle and drain channels along the edges. They worked great for the living, but unfortunately for the dead, particularly those with curved backs the bodies, rolled off onto the floor. Most embarrassing. We had to redesign the trolleys with a flat centre. I learnt to be more careful and not to assume anything.
Who/what taught you your most valuable lesson from a career/engineering perspective?
My good friend, manager and associate Mr Jin Lor explained to me while I was engaged on the Privatization project in Malaysia 4 things which must be observed in order;
1. Preserve your respect.
2. Preserve your professional integrity.
3. Respect and protect the financial and strategic interests of your employer.
4. Have fun!
What change do you most want to see in the industry as it stands now?
I was very fortunate to have excellent managers and mentors who helped me to develop my skills and abilities. I would like to see in house training schemes to give other upcoming Hospital Engineers the opportunities I had.
What advice do you give to those you mentor?
When I first started in Hospital Engineering my mentor, good friend and manager Bob Cottrill told me “George, you will never be bored in Hospital Engineering, no two days will ever be the same”. I would give the same advice to those I mentor. Never did I dream as a young long haired cadet Hospital Engineer riding to work on my motorcycle that I would go on to manage over a 1,000 staff, train many other successful hospital Engineers, manage projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars, help to design, build, equip, test and commission 5 major hospitals in 4 different countries, and to setup and manage the maintenance of many other Health Care Institutions. Never a dull day and a lot of fun.