Guest Chair: Rajiv Mathur – Regional Advisor, Asia, The OSPAs

Panellists:
Anil Puri – Chairman & Managing Director, A P Securitas
Dr. Parinita Kaur – Consultant – Internal Medicine, Aakash Healthcare Super Speciality Hospital
Rajesh Sawant – Head of Security, Surveillance and Fire Safety at Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital

Key points

Anil Puri noted that during covid-19 security in healthcare has transformed from typically regular and routine tasks to rapidly adapting to a different set of challenges. There have been many changes in hospital practices for treating patients, the implementation of national lockdown, and implications for other areas of activity such as managing visitors. Anil noted the difficulty of re-training security officers and determining what the new ‘norm’ would be at the height of the crisis, when relatively little was known about the virus despite the constant media focus and ‘information overload’. He noted a key challenge for security was to implement and enforce new practices at a time of heightened emotional implications for patients and visitors. In respect of the threat of deliberate coughing/spitting towards staff Anil noted the importance of security being declared as an essential service and being able to support the work of law enforcement, but acknowledged that the relative lack of official authority held by security personnel meant that the main focus was on dealing with people sensitively and efficiently and trying to prevent such situations arising. Anil noted that despite the challenges faced, security has ‘shown its metal’ and responded well in supporting the efforts of law enforcement and frontline medics.

Rajesh Sawant talked about the challenges faced at a large hospital in Mumbai. This included balancing the needs of staff, patients and visitors in both covid and non-covid areas. Rajesh gives some interesting examples such as the protocols for dealing with patients being admitted to the hospital (for non-covid related issues), and how they must be segregated from both covid and non-covid wards until their covid status is established. Rajesh highlighted security has taken on a number of additional responsibilities and worked hard to reduce disruption and inconveniences to patients, visitors and staff caused by new requirements. He noted the difficulty of working in an environment where there are still unknowns in respect of dealing with the pandemic and the need for security to provide very strong communication to ensure everyone understands the Government requirements that must be adhered to. You will hear Rajesh talk about the importance of being prepared to respond to incidents such as a fire on a covid ward, by ensuring a quick response team is well trained and equipped with access to PPE to deal with the incident and where evacuation is required to ensure this can be implemented while maintaining any necessary segregation and isolation of patients. Rajesh highlighted the role that security plays in acting as a ‘bridge’ between the various stakeholders present in a healthcare setting and that to be effective in that role, up-skilling security personnel and maintaining morale and motivation are all crucial as the pandemic and the challenges associated with it continue.

Dr. Parinita Kaur applauded security personnel in the role they have played supporting the work of the frontline medical profession. She highlights that while their responsibilities have increased, their manpower has stayed the same. Parinita flagged the important work of security in screening visitors and patients, maintaining secure zones with no mixing of covid and non-covid staff and patients and dealing empathetically with all. Parinita noted the shift from hospitals having a consumer oriented approach to one where visitors are no longer able to meet patients yet hold high anxiety levels for the wellbeing of their loved one. She highlighted the dangers of visitors coming to hospital for updates when they themselves should be quarantining to ensure they do not transmit the virus and similarly the risk to security staff, medical staff and patients that some patient’s relatives could purposely avoid taking a covid test, because a positive test would mean they would have to isolate and would not be able to visit. Parinita elaborates on the strict practices in place for ensuring both safety and security, such as creating a secure route for covid positive patients to reach specific areas of the hospital for tests. She highlighted the importance of working together and remaining on guard to tackle and come through the crisis.

In closing the session guest chair Rajiv Mathur recognised and commended the important contribution of healthcare security professionals across the globe. He highlighted that it is essential to consider security and healthcare in tandem as the current crisis continues to unfold.

Charlotte Howell
15th September 2020