Patients at a major hospital in Swaziland (eSwatini) were left without food for at least a day because a catering company refused to deliver until the government met its unpaid bills.
It is one of a long list of cases in the kingdom where patients have been neglected over the past years because of the financial crisis.
The latest case was at Mbabane Government Hospital. Patients were left without food overnight and had to take medicines on an empty stomach. The company resumed supplies when part of its bill was paid.
The Swazi Observer reported patients went without food on 24 and 25 June 2020 until they were fed rice and soya mince.
It quoted a source saying, ‘Since April, the beginning of the government’s financial year, government had not been paying the service providers to such an extent that the catering company coffers couldn’t provide anymore from its depleted resources.’
Mbhuti Dlamini, Director of Operations of Capitol Caterers, the company concerned, told the Observer, ‘We had an issue with sources of payment to deliver, but that has since been resolved.’
The length of time the patients were without food is disputed, the Observer reported.
In July 2019 food collection points were set up across Mbabane to collect donations to feed patients at Mbabane Government Hospital when patients were left hungry after the government failed to pay food suppliers.
The Emergency Disaster Network collected bags of beans, rice, chicken portions and sugar. Cash donations were also collected.
The financial crisis in Swaziland has been growing in recent years. In July 2019 The Observer reported Minister of Health Minister, Lizzy Nkosi, ‘has explained that some of the shortages were as a result of suppliers cutting supply because of outstanding payments, which runs into millions of Emalangeni’.
It was reported in June 2019 that the food shortage had also hit two other public hospitals, Hlatikhulu Government Hospital and Nhlangano Health Centre, both in the Shiselweni Region.
The food problem is one of many facing the health service in Swaziland which is caused by the government’s inability to pay suppliers. The crisis was raging long before the present coronavirus crisis hit Swaziland.
Last week it was reported that hospitals and clinics were short of about 40 major medicines, including antibiotics and painkillers, to treat a variety of conditions including the flu, arthritis, fungus infection, nausea, vomiting and mental health issues.
The financial crisis in the kingdom ruled by King Mswati III as an absolute monarch has been continuing for years. At least six children were reported to have died from diarrhoea in August 2019. Drugs to treat them were unavailable.
In August 2019 the Ministry of Health confirmed in its first quarter performance report delivered to the Swazi parliament that drugs had run out and there were shortages of nurses, midwives and other health professionals. Fuel frequently ran out and ambulances and other vehicles had broken down.
Part of the report stated, ‘While most patients were negatively affected, highly impacted patients were those on psychiatric medication, which stocked out for longer periods and those taking anti-hypertensive treatment. The main cause for stock-outs is failure to pay suppliers on time due to the fiscal challenges facing the government.’
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