By Fikameni Mathias
The Ministry of Health and Social Services has told all its service providers whose contracts to provide goods and services to the ministry have expired, to continue with their work until January 2019.
This was revealed by the ministry’s permanent secretary Ben Nangombe when questioned about the controversial Onandjokwe State Hospital’s catering tender that continues to face a barrage of criticism.
Nangombe said the ministry has informed all its service providers to continue on until January while the ministry irons out the deficiencies in the tender awarding system.
“This does not mean we are renewing any contract but simply asking them to stay on until we sort out the tender advertising. At the moment I cannot say how long this will take, but that is the situation at the moment,” he said.
According to Nangombe, the delay emanates from finalisation and submissions between the ministry and the Central Procurement Board. The Permanent Secretary said the ministry is busy finalising bid documents to submit to the board.
“We had submitted the document early but the procurement board had at the time changed to a new format that we now have to align to and resubmit.
We will be submitting the documentation very soon and the entire process will be done by January 2019,” he said.
Another hold-up, Nangombe said, was getting information from their facilities with regards to the modus operandi of these kitchens.
Catering services at Onandjokwe Hospital are currently offered by Clouds Trading since 2013.
The food services has particularly irked nurses and patients who have repeatedly the quality thereof.
The contract expired in March 2018, but the ministry decided to extend it to September 2018 despite the outcry over the quality of food given to patients.
The Patriot in the past reported how the hospital’s kitchen reeks of displeasure to both the nurses as well as the patients who consume the food. Chief amongst the complaints, is the fact that the cleaners at the hospital are forced to distribute food to the patients.
More mishaps at the hospital especially from its kitchen have compromised the quality of healthcare on offer at the facility which caters for thousands of northerners who cannot afford private healthcare.
The practical situation on the ground is that, after a long shift of dusting the seating benches, cleaning of blood-stained floors and collecting bedpans, cleaners are required to shift chores to handling food.
The unhygienic walls have become breeding grounds for stray cats and cockroaches that have a bite of their daily meal at any moment a plate is left open.
Past reports have exposed the poor-hygiene levels at the facility.
Upon the announcement of the extension of the contract in March, hospital superintendent Akutu Munyika said they had no choice but to wait on government procedures to be completed.
The complaints, which come mostly from the nurses at the hospital, are that the caterers do not handle food with care. There are claims that at most times the meals are not properly prepared and food is left uncovered.
“It is inhuman to put patients at the hands of people who do not have any regards for their health. We complained about the unhygienic environments where food is prepared but nothing is done.
The management knows that the food is bad and they would not even eat so it is strange that they still want the same company to continue to provide the same services. For how long should patients suffer just because of paperwork?” queried a nurse at the hospital who preferred anonymity.
To this, Nangombe pleaded oblivious saying was not aware of such complaints but will look into it.
“I visited the hospital last week but everything seemed ok. I did not see the process of food being prepared or served so I will have to look into it.
However, if hygiene is compromised, that cannot be tolerated. That has to change,” he said.