At hospitals, doctors also form part of the ‘governance tripod’

Modern hospital governance requires a particular approach and specific knowledge of corporate governance. This is because there is an additional ‘power’ at the boardroom table: the Medical Committee. The Board has to deal with fascinating concepts such as ‘co-governance’ and ‘co-management’. GUBERNA alumna Hadewig De Corte, who was CEO of a hospital from 2018-2022, looks back for us at the strategic exchange of ideas and policy development, including during the pandemic.

Watch the interview first and then read on?


At the Clinic Saint-Jean in Brussels (the successor of the Augustine Hospital Sisters, first established eight centuries ago), 2000 employees and 300 highly-trained doctors give their very best for the clinic and for the more than 500 patients who stay there every day. Economist Hadewig De Corte spent four years as CEO of the Clinic, after 15 years at BNP Paribas Fortis and 5 years with Wolters Kluwer. A mother of a new stepfamily with 5 children, De Corte is also a GUBERNA Certified Director.

In each of her previous professional positions, De Corte has always been driven by the desire to help create a positive impact for a better world. And in the hospital sector – a socially-relevant sector par excellence – she was able to put her heart and soul into achieving that goal.

Hadewig De Corte

Hadewig De Corte

Vice President of the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie, Director of the Belgian Association of Hospital Managers and of various non-profit organisations. Was CEO of the Clinic Saint-Jean in Brussels until March 2022. Teaches Business Organisation at Odisee.

  • Passionate about caring for people and planet;
  • Sensitive to corporate governance and leadership;
  • Extensive management experience in banking, information & technology and healthcare;
  • Extensive experience of leading transformations and change;
  • In-depth understanding of organisations, processes & systems that have people at their heart;
  • Core values: professionalism - inclusion - diversity

Tel: +32 (0) 477 400 423

Can you tell us about some of the major challenges that came across your desk as CEO?

“A clinic is an incredibly complex organisation, in terms of content, processes, governance and the regulatory framework it operates within. And every single process is ‘vitally important’. You feel that you bear the ultimate responsibility for people there.

As an organisation, a hospital is a complex interplay of many different people and stakeholders; hospital funding in particular is in urgent need of modernisation. This means that our entire quality health system is under real pressure, a fact which quickly became clear to me as I faced some of my biggest challenges at Saint-Jean.

Funding is now mainly based on medical procedures, rather than on outcome. Not only that, nearly everything (how many people are doing what, for whom and when) is strictly defined in the regulations. In order to be sustainable and to be able to continue to offer quality care, you need to better (re)distribute the resources you have and to give yourself room to respond flexibly in response to new events. Let’s take COVID as an example. With just a few of the right incentives, you can create synergies, further optimise the use of new technologies and break free from the myriad rigid rules that get in the way of the flexibility you need.

My training at GUBERNA gave me additional business tools and methods that enable me to make a positive contribution to the further professionalisation of the hospital sector – a sector where I have been lucky enough to get to do my dream job over the past few years.

As CEO, how do you look back on your collaboration with your governing body?

The Governing Body – the new name for the ‘Board of Directors’ – is the ideal place to advance in one’s career. These are what I see as the key tasks of the Governing Body:

  1. To act as the guardians of a mission that should be as clear as possible;
  2. To set the strategy, based on a proposal by management;
  3. To appoint the right leadership;
  4. To monitor the implementation of the strategy and carry out the required and appropriate ‘checks and balances’ by means of inspections;
  5. To support the CEO and the executive team, particularly at key moments.

For example, I saw how the COVID-19 pandemic led to a health crisis, but also presented us with momentum and extra leverage. Thanks to the strategy which we had already mapped out, we were able to make it through the eye of the storm and knew where we were headed after the pandemic. As soon as the worst was over, and in parallel to the ongoing crisis, we continued with our strategic projects, such as the renovation of the outpatient clinic and delivering new ICT infrastructure. Not only did the crisis confirm that we were on the right track, but it also showed us that having a good strategic plan was a strong foundation in difficult circumstances.

How did the collaboration with the Medical Committee go?

The Medical Committee has a number of binding powers, established by law, on matters about which the Governing Body may not and cannot decide unilaterally (such as the recruitment of doctors, the contributions paid by doctors to the hospital, and more general financial matters). This is a good example of what we call ‘co-governance’ with the Governing Body. You always have to find a balance between the Governing Body and the Medical Committee. So this actually also means that the legislator has added an extra body to the ‘governance tripod’ which is traditionally made up of the General Assembly, Governing Body and Executive Committee.

Within the healthcare sector, doctors, who often have an independent status, are a crucial target group, so there is a need for closer direct cooperation between doctors and management in addition to engaging with the Medical Committee. That’s what I would call ‘co-management’. Doctors should also be involved at every level of the institution in the day-to-day running of the hospital (e.g. monitoring the functioning of a new outpatient clinic, a new IT system, or the optimisation of processes in the operating theatre). Clear rules are needed to ensure everyone knows their role. That can sometimes cause quite a bit of tension…

Let’s finish with a look at your other directorships…

In my role as director too, I always try to get the best out of people. Taking the organisational values as my guide, I seek to help the organisation focus on the right priorities. For a director, it’s useful to be able to take a multidisciplinary and systemic approach that enables everyone to excel. As Vice President at the Royal Theatre of La Monnaie, I bring experience in finance, operations and transformations to the table, while the other directors complete the spectrum with their own expertise. As a director, you don’t have an operational role, but you are there to question and advise. You deal with each proposal with both an open mind and the necessary critical mindset. My academically-based training at both GUBERNA and Vlerick has provided me with a number of techniques to function well in this role. I also think it is important for the good of the organisation that we keep each other on our toes within the governing collegial body.

And that’s how you ended up as a GUBERNA Alumna!

Exactly. The GUBERNA Alumni association is a useful network for me, as it provides an opportunity to constantly exchange reflections, experiences and insights with others.

Watch highlights of the interview

Francis Coulonval

Interview carried out by Francis Coulonval

GUBERNA Director
Co-CEO at (intelligent automation of your administration)

Tel: +32 (0) 478 88 59 12

Chris Wouters

Supported by Chris Wouters

GUBERNA Certified Director
Business Partner and Advisor, President Board of Onderwijs van Zusters van Christelijke Scholen van Vorselaar - koepel, Board  member Media holding, Board member Lieven Gevaertfonds, Board member Logia

Tel: +32 (0)477 66 60 83

Want to contribute to GUBERNA Directors Sparkle?

GUBERNA wants to be a true community in which each member can perform his/her role as director in the best conditions. To encourage the exchange of experiences and knowledge, the GUBERNA Directors have launched an interview series: GUBERNA Directors Sparkle. Through the stories of experienced directors, we want to inspire our members.

We would like to invite the GUBERNA Directors and GUBERNA Certified Directors to provide topics and people to be interviewed. In 2022 we want to focus on the following topics:

  • How can the board of directors contribute to a better climate?
  • From fact-checking to process-driven risk management overseen by the board of directors?
  • The role of the board chair in digital transformation.
  • How to strengthen your company to grow through acquisitions and partnerships and get your corporate governance right.
  • The young generation of board members.

Would you like to contribute to GUBERNA Directors Sparkle or do you have suggestions for interviewees or topics? Please send an email to Danny VandeVyver.