Health defends cancelling tea and biscuits

13 March 2019 | Health

The health ministry estimates it will achieve savings of between N$50 million to N$60 million annually following a directive to stop serving tea, coffee and biscuits to patients at public clinics and hospitals as of April.

A directive issued last week by executive director of health Ben Nangombe informed all hospital and clinics to suspend the serving of tea, coffee, juice and biscuits between meals unless the items are crucial to the care of an individual patient.

“During these difficult times, we must identify areas where we can make savings so that resources can be targeted at more critical areas,” Nangombe told Namibian Sun yesterday.

While patients will continue to receive breakfast, lunch and dinner, unless needed for particular reasons, in-between snacks will no longer be served as of 1 April.

He said the decision was based on the “substantial wastage” of the tea, coffees, juices and biscuits served to patients between main meals, which amounted to a “significant cost to the ministry”. He said these items were found to be “rarely, or are not at all consumed by the patients” and have been found stored in bedside lockers which “in turn attracts all kinds of pests and undermines efforts to maintain a pest-free environment in our health facilities.”

The decision was thus taken, Nangombe explained, for the ministry's dieticians and nutritionists to review the menus and to determine “if the omission of the snacks and drinks would compromise the overall nutritional value of meals the ministry provides to patients.”

He said the feedback was that the removal of the three daily snacks would have no negative effect, as they “do not add any substantive value to patients' health and wellbeing, nor are they required in all cases in their treatment.”



Removing the snacks would “contribute to our efforts to realise greater efficiencies in the utilisation of limited resources,” Nangombe said.



He said the ministry estimated that it would save between N$50 and N$60 million per year.



Nangombe stressed that patients who rely on food for the purpose of taking their medicine or where more frequent meal intervals are needed to manage health conditions, will continue to receive meals as per their requirements.

He said the directive will be implemented at all public health facilities where state patients are admitted.

JANA-MARI SMITH