Major public hospitals in Malawi are scheduled to start outsourcing catering services to improve dietary requirements for patients.
The move will also reduce the number of guardians in such health facilities, the Ministry of Health has confirmed.
The ministryÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s spokesperson Henry Chimbali said in an interview that apart from improved diet, the new systemÃ¢â‚¬â€which has already started at Zomba and Kamuzu central hospitalsÃ¢â‚¬â€has minimised theft of foodstuffs and wastage since food is priced based on the number of patients.
However, some employees at Zomba Central Hospital, where catering services are being provided by Blantyre-based Hotel Victoria, have raised an alarm, saying the cost of food has jumped drastically from about K4.5 million (about $26 946) a month to over K10 million (about $59 880).
The Nation learnt from insiders at Zomba Central Hospital that before the hospital started outsourcing the catering services, feeding patients used to cost about K4.5 million a month, but the cost has jumped to at least K10.3 million (about $61 676) per month.
A payment voucher IPR No 320101 in our possession shows that the hospital paid Hotel Victoria K10 394 040 (about $62 239) for foodstuffs supplied in November 2011.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I wonder why the hospital changed the catering system because things were going on well in the past as compared to what is happening now,Ã¢â‚¬Â said one concerned staff. Ã¢â‚¬Å“A lot of money is going towards payment of the catering services than procuring medical drugs.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Zomba Central Hospital chief administrator Matthew Mataka confirmed in an interview last week that the health facility was outsourcing catering services from Hotel Victoria. He also said the hospital has a monthly allocation that hovers around K40 million (about $239 520).
He said the hospital spends about K500 (about $3) per day per patient and explained that the amount paid to the service provider in a month depends on the number of patients in hospital that particular month.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“The hospitalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s outsourcing of catering services should not raise eyebrows as it is the hospitalÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mandate to only provide health services to the public and outsource all non-clinical services,Ã¢â‚¬Â Mataka said.
Chimbali said the Ministry of Health recommended that all central hospitals start outsourcing catering services apart from security. He said, shortly, laundry services would also be outsourced.
Chimbali, however, said the ministry would be monitoring the new system to ensure that catering services do not constitute most ofÃ‚Â the hospitalsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ financial allocation, saying government would reverse the decision if
core services are compromised.