I met up with a longtime friend at a coffee house. Famous for its taste and service ambience, it was a favourite spot. It was shortly after we met up that she conversationally recalled anecdotes I shared with her ages ago.

After I joked about the word “anecdotage,” which is an older person strongly inclined to tell reminiscent anecdotes, a renowned insurance company from the 17th century popped into our discussion. At the outset, it wrote only marine insurance, taking its name from a coffee house run by Edward Lloyd. It was formed by businessmen willing to insure against sea risks and meet up at the coffee house. “A-1” was used in its pages to denote the highest class of ship – now, it is used for anything excellent or first class.

As we were amazed by such developments, long ago, we lamented whether advances in information technology, medicine and knowledge of diseases that have leapt forward over the past years have matched in avoiding vulnerabilities of patients and healthcare professionals.

I asked her what if health facilities took the initiative to identify the potential risks from medical device design, human factors such as fatigue and stress, and errors in communication by seeking insurance against these risks. No matter what the insurer’s response, no doubt the exercise improves medical errors recurrence.

As we used to work together, the issue reminded me of what many assumed was an extra mile to go. I also tried every which way to identify the potential for risks in the conduct of a corporate office’s group companies and recommended insurance against these risks. Thanks to her recollections, it was about my unsuccessful attempt to prop up a poultry company’s biological stock management potential for risks.

Though unpredictable and improbable, a black swan event is possible in the poultry industry, which put the insurance company we were dealing with in a terrible dilemma. Finally, the costs were considered too high and the coverage was denied. Our plea for possibilities of opportunities expanding the policy type in Ethiopia, underlining its advantages for us and our assurances to commit to every word in the draft contract proposal, was unheeded.

Still, the whole exercise resulted in establishing the poultry facility’s policies, and it stipulated the proper assessment of demand for poultry products and planning of the size of activities. It resulted in, among others, a well-designed operation which has few impacts on community amenities and the environment through attention to detail and strict adherence to a daily schedule of checking, maintenance and necessary adjustments of the shed environment, litter, feeders and the ventilation system.

Sheds are only stocked at densities that comply with established procedures as overstocking causes increased litter moisture and potential odour problems and reduces both bird health and performance. The operation uses clean bedding materials with prescribed attributes and sound litter management, which is integrated into the operation and effective management of manure and litter is in place together with the selection and use of pesticides. Dead bird management ensures carcass disposal practices are not contaminating ground and surface water, causing odour nuisance, spreading infectious diseases and attracting vermin.

One of the main challenges against proper insurance is the “issue attention cycle,” which refers to why a particular social problem all of a sudden rises into the media along with public attention, remains a subject of importance for a short span of time, then fades away and leaves centre stage, and despite largely being unresolved, gives way to other issues of the day. Issues considered as medical errors or poor services are among the main problems, needing comprehensive, consistent and proactive data-based awareness.

Hopefully, today's business leaders and strategists are doing a better job hedging against risk. Otherwise, either in poultry, the medical profession or elsewhere, the system will break down.

PUBLISHED ON Sep 17,2022 [ VOL 23 , NO 1168]

Tadesse Tsegaye (seetadnow@gmail.com), a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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