Health care risksSouth African health care companies and organisations face a unique portfolio of risks which they must factor into their business continuity planning schedules.

Some of these risks mirror those faced by health care companies globally, while others are dependent on geography. Combined, they add up to a distinct risk profile that companies should be aware of—though many overlook or don’t properly scope them.

ContinuitySA believes that the following 8 risks particularly affect the South African health care sector, and should be factored into organisations’ business continuity planning schedules.

Outdated buildings and infrastructure. This risk is particularly high in the public sector as many buildings are leased, and landlords do not undertake proper maintenance. In addition, many public health facilities are in old buildings in which wiring can be faulty, or in which sprinkler systems are not installed due to heritage regulations. Working in such conditions can negatively affect staff morale and pose a threat to the safety of both staff and patients.

Over-reliance on third-party suppliers. For budget reasons, a lot of specialised equipment is leased and is often outdated. This in turn places the organisation at the mercy of suppliers and service organisations: because maintenance engineers, or replacement equipment in the event of a breakdown, are scarce, important medical tests or procedures can be delayed. Another supply chain vulnerability is the industry’s heavy reliance on drivers and couriers for the transport of specimens to medical facilities—union activity can thus impact heavily.

In addition, the public health sector is bedevilled by slow procurement processes.

Power interruption. Power outages are set to increase in frequency and severity for the foreseeable future, a definite risk for organisations dealing with life-and-death issues. Too many healthcare organisations have generators with limited diesel supply, and with uncertain maintenance and testing schedules. A crisis or power outage is the wrong time to find out your alternative power source is inoperative or can only sustain you for a short period of time.

Poor IT infrastructure and disaster recovery. All businesses are dependent on IT, but none more than medical laboratories or research facilities. Another problem is that business critical and client-sensitive data is frequently stored on unsecured laptops.

Despite their high reliance on IT, health care companies often do not have adequate IT disaster recovery plans in place, and testing is not performed regularly to ensure both data and systems can be restored within specified time limits.

Another critical IT dependency for health care is bandwidth, particularly when it comes to remote facilities.

Read our next blog for the remaining top four risks faced by the South African health care industry.

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