KZN hospitals run out of porridge supplement

THOUSANDS of HIV-Aids and TB sufferers in KwaZulu-Natal are starving because a health department programme has ground to a halt - again.

The patients, who are on anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs), are battling to find answers about the disappearance of their nutritional porridge at the province's key clinics and hospitals. They claim to have gone without the packs since December.

Patients on ARVs take the porridge, made of high fibre, proteins and nutritious supplements, as a supplement to help boost their immune systems.

The programme was started to ensure patients on ARVs and TB medication have food in their stomachs before taking their cocktail of tablets.

But since last December, over 100000 patients who had been benefiting from the multi-million rand programme have allegedly been left at death's door.

Two hospitals in the eThekwini region, Mariannhill and Umlazi's Prince Mshiyeni, with a very large number of patients on medication have reportedly gone dry. They have reportedly been sending patients home without their packs.

Service provider Dawnfeeds' director Dawn Schneederger confirmed that their last delivery to the hospitals was in December.

"But there is nothing we can do because our contract ended in January. We were told that the contract was going to be extended.

"We had a 36-month contract with the department to supply the porridge to clinics and hospitals but we only serviced 14 months. Patients are calling us daily, enquiring about their porridge, but there is nothing we can do," Schneederger said.

Patients said they were sent from pillar to post when they asked for their supplements.

"Last month I was helped by my neighbour. We shared one pack of porridge, but now we have nothing. We were hoping to get our packs today," said a patient.

Provincial health spokesperson Chris Maxon said: "The programme is now run by National Treasury after a tender process. It was to come into effect on May 15. Distribution to hospitals and clinics should take place soon," Maxon said.

He denied that the department had failed to honour its contract with existing provincial service providers.

Out of 11 health districts, uMngungundlovu and eThekwini are the hardest hit as they provide these packs to more than 60 000 patients.