File photo of Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Johannesburg - Food services staff at Chris Hani Baragwanath Academic Hospital have claimed that patients are often served rotten and contaminated food, and that food preparation guidelines and menus designed by dietitians are ignored.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one Bara kitchen staff member recounted how patients in the maternity ward were recently served pap cooked from maize meal that was infested with worms.

“There were worms and weevils found in the 50kg of mealie meal in the maternity kitchen, and it was reported to the chief food services manager. She then gave instructions to the supervisors to go and buy a sieve at the Bara mall and to sieve the mealie meal.

“And they had to serve that pap to the patients,” the staff member said.

Other kitchen staff claimed that patients have been fed leftover or rotten food from a fridge, where food collected by pig farmers is stored.

Another anonymous employee said that in one instance they were instructed to use fruit that has been placed in the kitchen waste.

“The bananas were rotten and had been discarded. The chief manager instructed a supervisor to use it for the patients and make banana bread.

“Another case was the apples. There was a problem with the temperature of the fridge, so everything rotted. She said they should peel them and get the bits and pieces where it is still okay and cook it for the patients. That was served to all 17 paediatric wards – that’s about 300 children,” the source said.

The staff member also claimed that meat fat was stored and used as cooking oil when preparing food, even for vegetarians.

“The chief food services manager instructed the cooks to keep the fat in the fridge to use it as a replacement for oil,” she said.

It is understood that such practices are not in line with the dietary guidelines of the hospital. “We are supposed to promote a prudent diet. If the dietitians can realise that pure white fat and drippings from the meat is being used in all the food, they would not accept that,” said the staff members.

Gauteng Health Department spokesman Simon Zwane claimed that all the correct procedures were followed in the preparation of food, but alluded to the fact that they faced budgetary constraints.

A dietitian working at Bara confirmed that they had been facing ongoing problems since 2009. She said dietitians had raised their concerns with management, but nothing had been done.

She claimed that the hospital had said the reason patients were served poor food was because there was insufficient food to go around due to suppliers not being paid.

A Lenasia patient who stayed at Bara for more than five months said patients were underfed and malnourished.

“When it comes to lunch, you will be lucky if you get two slices of brown bread. They don’t care if you are a diabetic or Muslim. Even when you request a halaal diet, you open your eyes, you’re all eating the same. There is never fruit. They will give you tea with one spoon of sugar. Everything they supply us with, they cut the quantity,” said the patient.

The patient added that staff told her that they were receiving less than half of their food supplies, necessitating the rationing. “They will give you samp today and tomorrow for lunch or even the whole week,” she added.

Another Lenasia patient, identifying herself as Aunty Hajirah, was admitted to Bara for three months. She said the food was appalling.

“People used to complain about the food, especially because we don’t eat the same portions.You can’t give adults food like you give babies… very small portions. I always used to share my food with other patients,” she said. – Health-e News Service