Hospital cuts back on costs

PATIENTS and staff at Helen Joseph Hospital in Johannesburg are reaping the benefits of their greening project vegetable garden.

They have not only solved their infection control issues in the kitchen, but are also contributing to the Millennium Development Goals by alleviating poverty and hunger.

"In solving our infection control issue by managing our own kitchen waste, we have cut down on our monthly expenditure by no longer having to pay a contractor to remove it," said hospital chief executive Gladys Bogoshi.

"We are using the kitchen waste to make compost for our vegetable garden, where we now grow and harvest vegetables for patients to consume during their stay at our hospital - resulting in further financial savings on food expenditure."

The garden, which was established a year ago and produces about 217kg of produce a month, was the brainchild of clinical executive Naumi Sithole.

Listening to a perma-culture (vegetable garden and chicken egg harvesting) presentation at a Centre for Public Service Innovation conference last year , Sithole picked up on how the hospital could benefit in many areas - not just in solving infection control .

With absolutely no budget for this project, Sithole sought the buy-in of the dieticians, occupational therapy department and food service unit.

"The success of the greening project is not entirely mine," she says.

"Together with my team, we developed strategies with the aims of not only controlling infection but also serving a balanced meal to patients; rehabilitating disabled and mentally challenged patients outside the confines of the hospital walls; plus equipping patients with the knowledge to start their own gardens at home - thereby alleviating hunger and poverty."

Dietician Erna Henning says: "We grow mainly vegetables which are in keeping with the culture of our patients. We don't want to serve them food they generally would not eat at home, however, we want to encourage them to eat a variety of vegetables so they consume the daily nutritional requirement of a minimum of 5 vegetables or fruits."

"We harvested 60kg of spinach on Thursday as well as 40kg of broccoli on Monday last week."

"We are limited to growing vegetables that are in season because it is out in the open and we do not have a green house environment as yet."

Not all staff bought into the idea of working in the garden to begin with, but now, they acknowledge and are pleased with the benefits for the patients. And, they as well as the patients now have the skills to start their own vegetable garden and compost heap at home.

The garden has become a haven to both patients and staff alike.

"Eventually we plan to set up a recreation area with tables and chairs for patients," says Sithole. "Staff will also benefit spending time relaxing in this tranquil environment."

Anyone wishing to make a donation can contact 011-489-0306/0298.