Food shortages follow a shift in suppliers, say Ermelo Hospital staff © WHO

Food shortages follow a shift in suppliers, say Ermelo Hospital staff © WHO

“This year, the food supply has been very slow,” said one staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity. “(Some) months there is no meat and we have to serve pap and beans, while other times there are no vegetables or fruits.”

According to hospital staff, the provincial hospital has been facing food shortages since March, when the provincial department of health changed suppliers.

“In March, we were told to order from the new suppliers contracted by the provincial department of health,” the staff member added. “Previously, we would have ordered from different suppliers.”

Mpumalanga Provincial Department of Health spokesperson Ronnie Masilela admitted that the department had contracted two new suppliers to provide food to Mpumalanga hospitals but denied allegations that contractors were to blame for the shortages. Instead, Masilela blamed food shortages on a lack of space in hospital deep freezers.

Ermelo Hospital staff also worried about kitchen equipment, like stoves and pan-fryers, which are constantly breaking.

In the meantime, patients are being advised to bring their own food when admitted to hospital due to the shortage.

Zanele Shongwe,* was recently admitted at the hospital for high-blood pressure. Shongwe said a nurse contacted her prior to admission to tell Shongwe to bring her own food because the hospital didn’t have enough.

“When I was there I saw patients being fed dry stamp only and sometimes just green beans and bread,” Shongwe told Health-e.

“Luckily, I have family in Ermelo who cooked for me and brought me food,” she added “Only those patients who have family in Ermelo had proper meals.”

A patient in one of Ermelo’s wards, Bheki Khumalo,* lives about 90 kms away from Ermelo in Mbalenhl township outside Secunda in Mpumalanga.

“ I don’t have family in Ermelo so I have been forced to eat the food, and we have been eating pap and beans the whole week,” said Khumalo, who also complained of small portions. “I am not sure what nutritional value are we getting if we eating (food like) pap and macaroni the whole week.”

One of the nurses echoed Kumalo’s concerns.

“As much as we provide medical care we also need to provide nutritional care to the patients so that they heal, ” she said. – Health-e News Service.

*Names have been changed