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News archive - July 2018

Finding a balance

Finding a balance

Before you request the assistance of an HVAC supplier; you must first ensure they have a genuine understanding of the unique parameters that healthcare facilities are expected to work within.

The requirements of an acute care unit are not comparable to those of an operating theatre, for example; so a one-size-fits-all solution will never suffice.

So, what should you be looking for from any company entrusted with installing climate control equipment within your application?

Budget matters

There are a number of factors that differentiate one supplier from another; and it’s important to ascertain that you have all angles covered - particularly when the wellbeing of people is at stake.

Of the variables you must consider, there is arguably nothing more important than guaranteeing that your potential supplier has a genuine understanding of a healthcare facility’s logistical operations.

“Any company working for, or alongside, a healthcare provider should be fully aware of the budgetary restrictions that exist within the sector,” says Karen Markham, NHS account manager at Andrews Sykes.

“It’s well documented that, within the healthcare industry at least, there is a constant conflict between estate departments and budget holders.

“It’s difficult to allocate funds when they’re so scarce and also to maintain optimum performance levels within a service that is already stretched.

“Finding an HVAC supplier you can trust is therefore paramount, but it’s also absolutely critical that they have the capacity to fulfil whatever requirements you may have.”

Tailored to fit

If you’re going to make a company responsible for satisfying your heating or cooling requirements, then you need to be confident that their equipment is of the desired quality.

Will their air conditioning units stand up to the rigours of a busy healthcare environment? Does the company have engineers on standby 24 hours a day in the event that something goes wrong? Do they have a demonstrable knowledge of the industry?

If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, then you should be looking elsewhere.

Markham Insufficient climate control or improper conditions are never excusable when there are vulnerable patients in the vicinity, which is why those in charge of expenditure are under intense pressure to provide much-needed HVAC systems,” said Markham.

“In such a scenario, key decision managers are sometimes tempted to purchase the cheapest equipment available despite the obvious long-term implications.

“Rarely is this the best approach, though, as sourcing low-priced kit tends to yield a proportionate impact. Instead, it is vital that you analyse each requirement on its own merit to ensure the resultant solution has been tailored to fulfil its intended purpose.

“The saying ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ could hardly be more apt as far as this situation is concerned.

“When lives are on the line, there is simply no room for false economies.”

For a significant percentage of hospitals, clinics and other services; the ageing estate from which you operate renders it totally unfeasible for facilities manager to invest in new HVAC systems.

CAPEX advisors will not authorise the procurement of a modern boiler arrangement, for example, when there is a very-real prospect that you will move into new premises within five or 10 years.

Implementing state-of-the-art heating or cooling amenities would not represent an efficient use of funds in such cases, instead creating a practical scope for hire.

An uncertain future

According to Markham; this is making leasing and hire packages more attractive to the medical market.

She said: “Uncertainty surrounding the future of a building does not negate the constant need for cooling or heating all the while it remains operational.

“Even if a closure or relocation isn’t imminent; an HVAC hire package can ensure all requirements are accommodated with a greater degree of flexibility than would be possible with an outright purchase.

“This notion actually applies to all factions of healthcare provision. A seasonal temperature spike, for example, may only need to be counteracted for a two-week period - but the fact remains that an air conditioning solution will still be urgently required.

“By hiring equipment on this basis, you can solve the problem at hand without requesting funds to invest in an HVAC system you probably won’t need for the other 50 weeks of the year.

“At a time when healthcare services in general and the NHS in particular are incredibly strained, the need for resourcefulness and efficiency has never been greater.”

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