KZN patients go hungry as DOH reneges on catering contract

Makhosazana Mdlalose, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Health

Patients at several rural KwaZulu-Natal hospitals are going hungry after the province’s department of health allegedly reneged on its payment to the catering company contracted.

The DA wrote to KZN Health MEC, Sibongiseni Dhlomo this morning demanding urgent intervention and clarity on the situation.  We want to know whether the claims that the DOH has not paid the service provider are founded.  We also want a full enquiry into allegations of dodgy tender procedures.

The information came to light after the DA received a call from a member of the public with first-hand experience of someone close to them who was hospitalised at St Margaret’s hospital in Umzimkhulu.  Contact was subsequently made with the hospital, where a senior staff member, who did not want to be identified in the media, confirmed that the provision of food had been disrupted for almost a month, with only “some” patients receiving meals.  This was the result of the KZN Health department failing to pay the service provider.

The same source advised that St Margaret’s is not the only hospital affected and that there are another three Umzimkhulu-based hospitals that are also affected.

People go to hospital because they are ill and need help. They should not have to go hungry too.  To expect family or friends to provide them with meals three times daily is not only completely unacceptable, it is completely unrealistic.

According to our source, the company awarded the catering tenders is PCK Distributors.  Concern has also been expressed over the way in which the tender was handled. The Government Tender Bulletin for 12 September 2012 specifies that PCK Distributors was the winning bidder for tender number ZNB 5691/2011-H-cross Ref (RFI) ZNB 5638/2011-H, which was for the “appointment of an agent for the procurement and distribution of food supplies in various institutions”.  The wording of the notice suggests that PCK Distributors have been granted food supply contracts for various hospitals around the province.

This suggests that there may be other hospitals where patients are not receiving food.

No matter the situation, we expect the MEC to restore the catering service to patients. To leave patients in the lurch like this is shocking.  There can be no excuse for the disdain shown by health officials to these citizens in their hour of need.

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