Namibia: N$60 million per year on tea, coffee

A Whopping N$60 million per year is what the health ministry claims will be saved when they scrap tea and coffee from hospitals’ menu across the country.

Health’s executive director, Ben Nangombe, told The Namibian on Monday that many patients were not drinking tea and coffee, resulting in huge wastage.

He explained that patients will still receive three square meals a day, and provision for mid-meal snacks will be made.

Nangombe added that a dietician and nutritionist had reviewed the updated menu, and confirmed that the change would not affect the health of patients.

A dietician at the Windhoek Central Hospital confirmed that patients’ health would not be affected by the change.

Health minister Kalumbi Shangula told the National Assembly yesterday that it was his ministry’s duty to manage resources in a “frugal and responsible manner”.

Shangula was responding to PDM member Elma Dienda’s question regarding the scrapping of tea and coffee from hospitals’ menus.

“We have found that these items are rarely, or not at all, consumed by patients,” he said, adding that the items are often stored in bedside lockers.

“This attracts all kinds of pests, and undermines efforts to maintain a pest-free environment in our health facilities,” he added.

This news came as a surprise to catering staff and office administrators at both the Windhoek central and Katutura intermediate hospitals, who only heard of this directive yesterday morning.

“I hadn’t seen or heard about the notice until this morning,” Sarah Gideon, an administrative officer at the Katutura Intermediate Hospital, said.

Unit managers for Fedics Food Services, the company hired by the ministry to do catering at the two state hospitals in Windhoek, told The Namibian on condition of anonymity that the ministry’s claims of waste were not true because the majority of patients take their tea and coffee.

“Of the 800 to 900 patients we serve every day, only between 10 and 20 patients do not take their tea,” they explained.

They added that the mid-meal snack helps curb hunger until the next meal, and helps patients who have difficulty taking their medicine.

Although they had not yet been informed about the tea and coffee suspension from the menu, kitchen staff and supervisors at the Windhoek Central Hospital also confirmed that most patients take tea and coffee at the scheduled times. Member of the Fedics Food Services board, Hosea Alweendo, said the company is yet to respond to the ministry’s directive, and that they would remain tight-lipped until then.

“At this moment, it would be premature to say anything,” he added.

However, Fedics unit managers at the Katutura Intermediate Hospital said there is not much the company can do about the directive, and that the company will abide by what the government instructs them.

Gideon said although the change may not affect patients’ health, many of them relied on that snack to sustain them until the next meal.

“There are those people who depend on hospital food. They don’t have relatives to take care of them or bring them extra food,” she added.