NHI BILL HIGHLIGHTS THE CRUCIAL ROLE OF PROPER MAINTENANCE IN HEALTHCARE FACILITIES

by Tia

With the signing of the National Health Insurance (NHI) Bill by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this year, the spotlight on South Africa’s healthcare system has never been more intense. Amidst fears that this bill could precipitate a mass exodus of healthcare professionals and potentially threaten the stability of the healthcare system, there is a renewed focus on ensuring that healthcare facilities are well-maintained and fully functional to provide dignified and efficient healthcare to all South Africans.

In the Western Cape, the implementation of world-class public healthcare systems, delivering high-quality, tax payer-funded health services to less fortunate communities serves as a testament to what can be achieved. The success of these public hospitals, run in partnership with private sector entities like FM Solutions, highlights the importance of leveraging the expertise of doctors and nurses alongside top-tier facilities management.

“Globally, hospitals are increasingly recognising the critical importance of maintaining fully functioning healthcare facilities. We see more personal and public resources being spent on healthcare today than ever before. Ageing populations, increased focus on preventative health, growing affluence, and technological advancements in the medical world are all contributing factors to hospitals and healthcare facilities experiencing a growing influx of patients,” says Lydia Hendricks, a Director at FM Solutions.

As demands on public and private hospitals and clinics continue to rise, the necessity of keeping public infrastructure fully functional and compliant with OHS regulations cannot be overstated. Traditionally, hospitals managed these needs with in-house teams, but progressive local and international institutions are now outsourcing these services to access infrastructure best practice, operational flexibility and efficiency.  

“Poor conditions that many medical staff in South Africa live and operate in, further causes the country to lose valuable professionals.  Conversely, favourable living and working environments attract quality medical staff which ultimately converts into patient well-being and health experience”, explains Lydia.

Facilities management in healthcare covers a broad spectrum of services, including the reliability of critical life support systems and building infrastructure through 24/7 technical monitoring and technical maintenance interventions,  improving workflow, and streamlining daily operations. Facilities management also includes vital soft services such as catering, cleaning, hygiene and sanitation, laundry and garden maintenance.

Since its inception in 2000, FM Solutions has been providing facilities support and management across various industries. In 2014, the company assisted the Eastern Cape Department of Health with conditions audits, maintenance solutions and SMME Development initiatives at 343 provincial medical facilities.  Sadly these medical facilities are now in such a poor state of disrepair that it will require massive capital injection to make them compliant to NHI standards.  In the meanwhile, reactive maintenance costs escalate daily in order to keep the doors open to service communities desperately needing healthcare.

“Public hospitals have significant legal challenges in adhering to laws including the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA), the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), and the Government’s Immovable Asset Management Act (GIAMA). Many provinces are unaware of their shortfallings and that their current infrastructure is run to fail. Precious funds must then be set aside for significant capital improvements, which, in the words of facilities management best practices, supports the adage ‘penny wise, pound foolish,’ Lydia says.

FM Solutions has extensive experience in facilities management in the health sector,  where they can demonstrate such efficiencies realised in the Western Cape. This experience has given the company unique insights into the numerous challenges hospitals face on a daily basis and the valuable role that facilities management can play in providing technical support and bolstering operations.

FM Solutions manages critical support services, including cleaning, landscaping, catering, laundry, hygiene and sanitation and handyman services at in- and outpatient hospitals. An on-site helpdesk, supported by advanced technology, ensures that service requests are logged and addressed promptly, 24/7. Technology tracks and manages tasks, providing clients with detailed monthly reports on job status, costs and efficiency – thereby prolonging the lifecycle of assets and ensuring reliability. This data informs strategic sourcing and effective operations management and planning, minimises  disruptions and prevents futile expenditure.

“Outsourcing support services to a third-party provider allows hospitals and healthcare facilities access to flexible, efficient service coordination and business support,” Lydia says. “This arrangement frees hospital administrators to focus on essential administrative tasks and empowers doctors and nurses to perform their duties in a clean, safe, and well-maintained environment, thereby reducing downtime and disruptions”.

Moreover, the company’s staff recruitment and supply chain processes make provision for the inclusion and upskilling of the local communities in which they operate. The service standard commitments promised toclients are integrated into the performance metrics which are formalised with both staff and strategic service providers.

“We are proud of our success rate in the growth of our staff and service providers both personally and professionally. Afroteq Academy, the training arm of our sister company Afroteq Advisory, is our strategic partner in upskilling both staff and service providers where improvement is needed on KPIs and SLAs,” she explains.

Going forward, it is clear that the implementation of NHI will be a high priority on the state agenda and therefore key infrastructure dependencies and sleek operational systems need to be high priorities.  FM Solutions has the necessary experience to work closely with hospital administrators and the Government to achieve these objectives.

Concludes Lydia: “Ultimately the drive should be to change to an asset management and service approach that extends the lifecycle of assets in order to achieve a quality health care service. We believe that with our support, public hospitals can shed their negative stigma and become well-maintained, efficiently run institutions”.

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