Hospital of horror

Hospital of horror

BUTHA-BUTHE – DEAD cockroaches, rodent droppings and a foul smell from the fridge. These are not the sights one would expect to see in a hospital kitchen. Yet, at Butha-Buthe Hospital, these sickening conditions are an everyday sight. Luckily for many patients, they never get to see these conditions because the kitchen, characterised by food spillage and greased, dirty floors is open to staff members only. Many of the staff have no proper clothing such as headgear.

Recently, MPs, government officials and United Nations staff came face to face with these stomach-turning conditions.
Shock, disgust and utter disbelief were written all over the faces of members of Parliament’s Social Cluster Committee, journalists, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) representatives and Ministry of Health officials who visited the hospital two weeks ago.

The visit was part of a tour of six health facilities in Butha-Buthe and Mokhotlong by the parliamentary cluster.
The roof is rusty and the ageing cooking equipment not fit for purpose.

In the food storage compartment where food should be stored in cool conditions, equipment is either out of order or non-existent.
The only small refrigerator in the compartment is unplugged from the electricity source, while dead cockroaches float on shallow waters at the base of the fridge.
For dinner, patients were served with maize porridge, vegetables and a piece of chicken and gravy.
This meal is for everyone: the critically ill, the diabetic and children under the age of five.

At Butha-Buthe Hospital, there are no special meals for anyone except for malnourished children who are fed highly nutritious foods donated by Baylor Clinic based in Maseru.
A catering company that won a tender to provide meals at the hospital, Lekker Kos, is based in Maseru and it only sends money through mobile money transfer, M-pesa, to buy the day’s rations for patients.

The hospital management team complains that this arrangement delays the preparation of food, which results in patients having breakfast as late as 11am.
Speaking on behalf of the management, Dr Phethisa Sekhese, complained that the food served is not tasty.
“One of the things is that the food is returned untouched by patients,” Dr Sekhese said.

thepost observed that for that day, only a 2kg packet of sorghum flour, 1.5 kg packet of brown sugar, 500ml of milk and nine teabags were ready for the morning meal.
“This is all there is for breakfast while the rest will be bought in the morning,” a hospital worker said.

A worker for Lekker Kos who only identified herself as Retšepile and also in charge of the kitchen, said there was “nothing” she could do because she worked on orders.
Retšepile said her bosses told her that “the Ministry of Health does not pay on time” when she enquired about the delays in sending money to buy food.
When ’Mamookho Phiri, a member of the parliamentary social cluster committee, went to the kitchen to get a sample of the food prepared at the hospital, she found cooks with no head gear and the food was not ready.

Kananelo Taoana, a Health Inspector in Butha-Buthe district, said her team had inspected the hospital and sent a report on the condition of the hospital’s kitchen.
“The kitchen is in no good condition,” Taoana said, adding: “We have witnessed this.”

“In our report we have told the ministry that the hospital’s kitchen needs to be fully renovated.”
Taoana said despite the filth, the conditions were actually much better than before.
“The kitchen workers have really tried their best to clean up the kitchen. They scrubbed most of the dirt and grease and we cannot blame the condition of that kitchen entirely on them,” Taoana said.

She however said it was not right for the cooks to work without headgear and other necessary clothing.
“They know in our orientations that we advise everyone who has access to the kitchen to never enter in there without covering their head, not with caps, not with doeks, but white cotton head wraps that can absorb sweat,” she said.

Taoana said the Lesotho Millennium Development Agency (LMDA) assists the hospital in fumigating the kitchen once in a while to get rid of the cockroaches.
She said the LMDA had fumigated the kitchen a week before the committee’s visit.

“Again, in this matter, cockroaches are trapped in the ceiling. There is so much that the fumigation can do but every time we think we have killed them all, more come out,” she said.
“This is why I recommended that the whole kitchen be renovated from top to bottom.”

The owner of Lekker Kos was unavailable for comment for the past two weeks.
Butha-Buthe Hospital serves a population of 11 060 urban and rural dwellers. It has a capacity of 129 beds, including for waiting mothers.

Rose Moremoholo

Previous Coalition partners push for ABC unity
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