More needs to be done to ensure stronger security systems in healthcare facilities

According to the South African Medical Association (SAMA) more than 30 hospitals across the country have reported serious security incidents this year. “One criminal offense in a healthcare facility is one too many, and while our crime levels in hospitals are moderately low, we cannot have a society where hospitals are not safe,” says Derek […]

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According to the South African Medical Association (SAMA) more than 30 hospitals across the country have reported serious security incidents this year.

“One criminal offense in a healthcare facility is one too many, and while our crime levels in hospitals are moderately low, we cannot have a society where hospitals are not safe,” says Derek Ramsay, Healthcare Security Account Executive at integrated facilities management company Servest.

He says there is need for a closer analysis of crime in healthcare facilities in particular, in order to better understand how to combat it and design solutions to support healthcare practitioners in doing their work without fear, especially in areas where there is a high crime rate.

“The current crime statistics do not focus on a structured approach to understanding criminal activities in the healthcare space, as these are recorded as part of the national crime statistics. There are no real statistics specific to healthcare facilities and it is imperative that we look at healthcare as an individual sector. That way we can begin to break down what is going on in hospitals and kind of get a root cause,” says Ramsay.

According to him, in some aspects South Africa is on a par with other countries in terms of security at healthcare facilities. However, gaps remain in the manner in which crime is monitored, tracked and analysed for both the private and public sector healthcare facilities.

“From a technology point of view, lessons can be learned from China and the whole far east area, as they have some of the best CCTV systems and artificial intelligence solutions that have facial and optic recognition capabilities,” he said.

“Some countries also have specialised hospitals that make it easier to tailor security for their specific needs, a children’s hospital for example, a maternity hospital, critical illnesses relating to different diseases etc. However, this would require a whole-view approach of our current hospital structures in order to get it right,” argues Ramsay.

He notes that security in the healthcare sector is particularly complex, partly because of the different types of facilities, the varying threat levels and the compliance requirements. Moreover, it is focused on protecting some of the most vulnerable people in our society, who are at a point in their lives where they cannot fend for themselves; and several factors must be taken into consideration when providing security services in healthcare facilities.

“A number of factors must be taken into account for each individual healthcare facility to ensure that the solutions provided meet the needs of the patients, staff and healthcare specimens. The risk of a hospital is determined by its geolocation and the types of risks around that location, and there is no one size fits all model for healthcare security solutions – hence it is critical not only to understand the facility but the geolocation too.

“The people that have been in the industry for a long time, the guards that have climbed through the ranks from the bottom to management, will understand healthcare from the bottom up. Many companies run from the top down; we almost like to run from the bottom up. We get our knowledge from the guards that have been standing outside of the door of the ICU, that have dealt with the patients, and they give their inputs and put together a strategy per facility based on what that facility offers as number one speciality, what their risks are and obviously how we mitigate those risks for that facility. This allows Servest to tailor security plans specifically for each facility.”

Ramsay says of importance in planning security systems for healthcare systems is to ensure that the perimeter and access control areas are well secured and that there are a mix of proactive and reactive systems in place with strong CCTV. Preventative strategies should be in place to deter crime and stop crime before it happens.

“As the standard of security is directly related to the guard’s grade, it is important to use suitably qualified security personnel for the different industries; in particular the healthcare industry. Appropriately qualified grade security personnel should be deployed in hospitals, as the gradings determine the kind of security offered,” concludes Ramsay.

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