As hospitals around the world are trying to fight the ongoing onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of well-maintained, fully functioning hospitals and clinics is continuously being highlighted. Pandemics and disasters aside, experts agree that healthcare is a mega-trend around the world.

Growing demand for healthcare services

“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, Business Development Director of the AFMS Group (Pty) Ltd and its subsidiary FM Solutions – a privately-owned company that provides specialist FM services to the built environment throughout Southern Africa.

Why outsourcing to FM experts makes sense

Traditionally, hospitals used to operate with their own in-house facilities management or maintenance teams. Progressive hospitals, however, are changing this approach by outsourcing this service in order to streamline their operations, improve efficiencies and unlock savings.

“Around the world, it has become a growing trend by hospital administrators of public and private hospitals to outsource their FM duties to specialist companies who are able to coordinate a large group of different team members and services. South Africa is slowly but surely following suit as decision-makers realise the many benefits that are afforded to them when they partner with a Facilities Management service provider,” Lydia explains.

Typically, FM for hospitals, clinics and other healthcare facilities cover a wide range of services and activities. This includes the close monitoring of how high-value assets in the hospitals are used, ensuring around-the-clock access to technical expertise and maintenance services, improving workplace flow and streamlining daily services to support the institution.

High expectations of public hospitals

Since opening its doors for the first time in 2002, FM Solutions has provided various industries with facilities management solutions. In 2014 they were called upon to assist the Eastern Cape Department of Health with conditions audits, provide maintenance solutions and introduce SMME Development initiatives at 343 of its provincial medical facilities.

“The stakes and expectations are high for public hospitals who have to comply with legislation such as Government’s Immovable Asset Management Act  (GIAMA) and the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) that regulate the management of state assets. AFMS has experience in this field and was brought on-board to offer support to Eastern Cape hospitals where capacity was lacking,” Lydia says.

This project gave the company’s team of FM experts first-hand exposure to the unique challenges hospitals face in their day-to-day operations and the valuable role they can play when it comes to delivering technical support, bolstering business and taking control of the day-to-day running of support services.

Delivering Integrated FM Services to Western Cape Hospitals

Recently, FM Solutions formed a joint venture company, called the Lentegeur Facilities Management Solutions (LFMS), specifically for the on-site management of certain facilities management services at the Lentegeur Psychiatric Hospital and Western Cape Rehabilitation Centre situated in Mitchells Plain, Cape Town. In addition, FM Solutions has also taken over the management of certain facilities at the Hospital of Hope – the temporary hospital constructed at the CTICC and the biggest COVID-19 field hospital in Africa. This hospital has been receiving high praise from patients who were treated there both for the excellent level of care they have received and the exceptional way in which the facility is being managed.

Kevin Stasch, FM Solutions’ Key Account Manager at LFMS confirms that their remit is to manage specific support services that are required to make the hospital run smoothly. This includes the cleaning of wards, landscaping/estate maintenance, catering, laundry and handyman services. Should an issue arise that requires attention, LFMS has established a dedicated, on-site helpdesk where nursing staff and doctors can log requests for repairs 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year. These jobs are scheduled according to their urgency or severity and alerts are sent out if the problem is not solved within the designated time.

“We are passionate about job creation and empowering SMMEs from the immediate area. For this reason, we outsource certain tasks to local service providers once clear service level agreements are in place. Where highly technical, specialist repairs are required, e.g. catering or maintaining medical equipment, we are responsible for appointing and overseeing these services too,” Kevin explains.

Outsourcing allows for greater accountability and transparency

“Outsourcing the management of support services to an FM service provider makes sense for hospitals, as it allows them access to flexible, agile and efficient service coordination and business support. Because hospital administrators no longer have to spend their time managing maintenance or support staff, it frees them up to focus their attention on the organisational tasks required for running the facility and caring for patients. Doctors and nursing staff feel empowered to perform their jobs optimally as the environment is clean, safe and well-maintained and downtime and disruptions are kept to a minimum. Visitors and patients benefit from receiving better care and the entire treatment process becomes a more enjoyable and humane experience. We believe this helps to create a win-win situation for all the parties involved!” Lydia says.

She highlights that hospitals have peace of mind when they outsource their FM services because they know the job will be done to an excellent standard. “We are contractually bound to perform certain services and our clients have the right to penalise us if we fail to deliver. We hold our service providers to the same standard. Problems that are left unattended can snowball very quickly – especially in a hospital environment where everything is connected. A problem in the kitchen, for example, could end up having a negative impact on waste management, which in turn will jeopardize cleaning and ultimately the health, safety and comfort of the patients and staff,” she clarifies.

Because transparency and accountability are vital, FM Solutions incorporates the use of state-of-the-art technology to help them keep track of all the tasks they perform. The clients are provided with detailed, monthly reporting regarding how many of the jobs were planned or unexpected and how quickly the problems were solved. Most importantly, it allows them to track and manage the cost and expenses, prolong the lifecycle of the assets and ensure the reliability and overall efficiency of the facility.

The shape of things to come

Looking ahead at what the future holds for hospital management in South Africa, Lydia says the FM Solutions team is passionate about helping the country’s healthcare system flourish and run optimally.

“We work in close partnership with hospital administrators and the Government to achieve their stated objectives. Bringing us on board means that cumbersome and lengthy procurement processes are avoided. The turn-around time for repairs is reduced and the entire management process on the ground just becomes much smoother and quicker. I believe the future for hospitals in our country shines brightly and that public hospitals will be able to dispel the stigma of being run-down, ineffectively run hospitals if they accept the helping hand that is offered to them,” Lydia concludes.

Cape Business News : 17 August ’20