Vegetarian meals sicken patients

Patients at Bophelong Hospital threaten to revolt.
Patients at Bophelong Hospital threaten to revolt.
Image: Tiro Ramatlhatse

Patients at Bophelong Provincial Hospital in Mahikeng have been put on forced vegetarian diet due to a shortage of money to buy meat.

The new regime was ironically introduced by management on Human Rights Day.

Now patients are up in arms and have allegedly dared management to implement the decision and risk having the hospital turned upside down.

North West provincial health spokesman Tebogo Lethekgwane confirmed that there is shortage of meat.

"The inconvenience with the shortage of meat is largely due to the fact that some of the invoices of the suppliers have not been paid," he said.

North West premier Supra Mahumapelo's spokesman Brian Setswambung said the premier's office was not aware of the meat shortage. "If this is true then it is unacceptable," said Setswambung.

"The premier was at the hospital on a campaign two weeks ago but was not briefed about the shortage of meat."

Veggie meals for patients.
Veggie meals for patients.

He added that Mahumapelo was aware of some of the problems at the hospital and had assured staff and patients he would resolve them speedily.

This comes after hospital management issued a memo on Tuesday informing staff of a shortage of funds to buy meat.

The memo, which Sunday World has seen, was issued by the acting food service manager who signed the letter as Ms Monare K.F. According to pictures leaked by hospital officials, the vegetarian meal appears to have been effected and the menu includes rice served with green beans while on other days patients were served pap with boiled cabbage or boiled carrots.

The details were also confirmed by a staff member and member of the National Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (Nehawu) at the hospital who alleged that Mahumapelo did nothing about the problem when he was informed by staff when he visited the hospital.

Veggie meals for patients.
Veggie meals for patients.

The official, who did not want to be named for fear of victimisation, said psychiatric patients reacted angrily to the changes in their meals and threatened to go on hunger strike or cause untold damage to property if bosses did not address their concerns.

He said the food problem was just a tip of the iceberg as there were other prevailing problems including a shortage of medication and malfunctioning of laundry machines.

As a result, he said, they were forced to wash patients' clothes and bedding in Mogwase, Rustenburg. "The meal changes have already been implemented ... but the food was rejected by patients in the maternity ward and the psychiatric unit of the hospital."

The official claimed that during his visit the premier turned down an opportunity for Nehawu to discuss the challenges facing the hospital. However, Setswambung dismissed the official's claims saying that the shortage of meat only started last week after the premier's visit.

Senior staff members only took him to the laundry section.

The Nehawu official put the blame of the collapse of services on the door of the health department, claiming that corruption at the department has reduced hospital management with no powers to make operational decisions.

He also said pharmacists were not performing their duties as there were no medicine to dispense.

"They just come and wait to knock off," he said.

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