Business For Good

“Never underestimate the power of teamwork” – CEO Q&A with Paschal McCarthy of Mercy University Hospital Foundation

By Business & Finance
24 May 2023

Paschal McCarthy is the CEO of the Mercy University Hospital Foundation. Since 2007 The Foundation has been responsible for developing opportunities and encouraging charitable contributions from within the community towards the work being carried out in the Mercy University Hospital, Cork.

Funds raised through the Mercy University Hospital Foundation are used to purchase state-of-the-art equipment, to enhance and develop services, and to help Hospital staff in providing a world-class service in a world-class hospital.

Paschal spent 35 years in Management in the Pharmaceutical industry in Ireland and Norway with Baxter Healthcare, Schering Plough, Nycomed Ireland, Nycomed Imaging AS, Amersham Health and laterally General Electric Healthcare (GEHC). For the last 19 years of his career he was Managing Director.

What are your main priorities and goals in your role?

The main priorities are twofold:

  1. Working with the Mercy University Hospital and the medical  staff to identify state-of-the-art procedures, equipment, and more that we can fundraise for. We also work with the medical staff and UCC to identify research opportunities which require funding to achieve results. The goal is always to improve patient outcome or experience, to impact the patient, and indeed patient families, positively by use of cutting edge processes.
  2. Create opportunities for individuals and organisations to support our work by donating funds for the various causes we support. 

What are your biggest challenges as CEO?

We have a small team in the Mercy University Hospital Foundation, and my role, like that of any CEO, is to ensure the team has the tools, equipment, training and support to effect their roles as best possible.

As with any business we need to plan and cater for the foreseeable future, making sure our strategic direction is consistent with the needs of patients and the hospital.

There are many competing causes, both national and international, and our role is to ensure the causes we are supporting are pitched in such a way as to make them attractive to our audience. 

We need to make sure the opportunities we offer donors to participate are focused on the correct needs and potential developments for the audience.

My role, like that of any CEO, is to ensure the team has the tools, equipment, training and support to effect their roles as best possible

How do you keep your team/staff motivated?

One of the joys of working in the sector we are in is the ownership team members take in the task they do. Motivation is never a challenge. The opportunities to meet and talk to patients who have benefitted from the work we have done to bring new technologies or practices to the fore is motivation enough for all. 

Meeting cancer survivors or family members of those who didn’t survive, but were treated in the best way possible, is a fantastic motivator in itself.

Seeing the faces of children when they speak of the kind, friendly way they are treated in MUH during often painful and distressing periods is heart-warming and motivating also.

What are the challenges facing the industry going forward?

There are many challenges confronting our sector. The broader charity sector is battling against cost of living issues globally, as well as here in Ireland.

Helping donors understand that Governments, with the best will in the world, cannot fund everything, is important. 

Of course we also have the occasional incidents of “bad actors” giving the industry a poor reputation. We are heavily regulated and the Charities Regulation Authority (CRA) is doing a great job of cleaning up the industry. Constant vigilance is required, through enforcement of regulation and refreshing of regulation to keep the industry ahead of these bad actors.

“Self-fundraising” is a challenge for the authority to regulate. The ease with which one can start a fundraising effort for a “great cause”, gather in large amounts of money, and then make sure it is used in the appropriate manner, this can be difficult.

What new trends are emerging in your industry?

Digitisation is the biggest trend we are seeing. People do not carry cash today to the same extent as in the past. We need to make it as easy as possible for donors to support us electronically.

Self-fundraising is a growing trend which can funnel funds away from the organised sector and restrict the funds available to the more public causes.

Are there any major changes you would like to see in your sector?

I sometimes worry about the control of funds being transmitted “trans-nationally”. While the Irish CRA is doing a great job of regulating the sector within Ireland, I feel more and closer interaction between regulators in other countries would alleviate this worry.

Paschal McCarthy, CEO, Mercy University Hospital Foundation

As an employer are you finding any skill gaps in the market?

Not really, as a small team we have great longevity of tenure amongst our staff. People working in the Not-For-Profit sector tend to have a more resilient approach to their roles, turnover is typically low.

How has Brexit affected you?

As a local charity focused on a city centre hospital we have seen little or no effect from Brexit – thankfully!

How has the COVID-19 crisis affected your business/sector?

Initially the COVID period was frantic for our operation. The hospital was in serious need of support for things that one wouldn’t think of – where there was a shared space between wards for staff pre-COVID, these now had to be repeated for each ward! This was not budgeted for, nor was it a focus for the Government – naturally they were focused on the bigger issues. Many items of equipment had to be doubled up to avoid the need for sharing. 

The businesses and public of Cork were tremendous in their response. The level of support we received for the MUH was phenomenal and really helped.

For the early years of COVID, and the initial post COVID era, we found a wedge driven between us and our one customer – the hospital. We couldn’t get access to the medical teams to discuss potential new projects to work on. That said, we had several legacy projects and programs that needed a higher level of support due to the restrictions imposed by COVID, which gave us enough to focus on.

How do you define success and what drives you to succeed?

Success is having new cutting edge processes and equipment to deliver to the patients of the MUH, and raising sufficient funds to make sure we can put them in place.

On the fundraising side, seeing the joy of donors when they reach a fundraising target, and seeing the enthusiasm with which people engage with the good causes we fundraise for – these help drive us on to keep achieving ever higher goals.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given, or would give, in business?

Never underestimate the power of teamwork, and the benefits of having differing personality types and outlooks in a team. We all see the world differently and allowing differing opinions and viewpoints can open to ever greater outcomes.

Foster lateral thinkers, they can open avenues others would never think possible. Allow people the latitude to develop their thoughts, ideas are the lifeblood of innovation.

What have been your highlights in business over the past year?

The Mercy University Hospital Foundation has had a goal of building a dedicated Cancer CARE Centre for many years. We have explored different locations without success – for many reasons. Last year we finally received planning permission for, completed the design and planning, and began actual construction in August 2022 of the MUH Cancer CARE Centre, which will be complete in December 2023. This centre, only 100 or so metres from the front door of the hospital, will be a non-clinical space for cancer patients and their families to receive the psychological support to complement the medical support on their own personal cancer journey.

This centre will house our Psycho-oncology Service, Ireland’s only psychologist-led cancer therapy centre.

Success is having new cutting edge processes and equipment to deliver to the patients of the MUH, and raising sufficient funds to make sure we can put them in place.

What’s next for your company?

We have a number of new projects bubbling away under the surface such as a Robotics Systems for Urology surgery, a major clinical trial on targeted drug delivery for bowel and liver cancer, and several other smaller projects which we are working on to get approval for, will  begin fundraising for, and hopefully implement to further improve patient outcomes at MUH.

Where do you want your business/brand to be this time next year?

Ideally we would like to be further down the road of digital fundraising. We have been active on Facebook, however we see this slipping a little. We have implemented QR codes on all our merchandising and will be moving towards tap technology and any other feasible digital sources.


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