The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has turned to a local catering company to assist with its meal delivery severely hampered by the closure of its central kitchen facilities at the Martindale’s Road critical care facility.
The move came after the hospital’s administration encountered problems with the timely delivery of meals to hundreds of patients under its care. The hospital’s kitchen was closed this week as several of the staff there tested positive for COVID-19 and several more were sent off to quarantine forcing the management to turn to outsourcing the service.
“It was always going to be a difficult proposition to close kitchen operations as we deliver approximately 900 meals per day within the QEH and have to be prepared for any unexpected upsurge in patient numbers. Although we were very satisfied at the arrangements made for a private caterer at the Blackman and Gollop and Enmore Isolation Centres, and the private nursing facility temporarily under QEH management, we did encounter issues with the transition of in-patient meal services from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to the School Meals Department of the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training,” Chief Operations Officer, (COO) Louise Bobb told Barbados TODAY this evening.
“The logistics of preparing meals from their Country Road Headquarters without the guidance or support of our own staff resulted in delays in the delivery of meals to patients and proved to be a significant challenge. This forced us to quickly re-evaluate the situation and examine how we could resume kitchen operations. We have contracted with Goddard Catering Group, an experienced industrial kitchen operator to re-open kitchen operations at the QEH with support from their airport base,” Bobb disclosed.
She said Goddards will commence the provision of this meal service from Saturday, March 6.
“We’re very grateful that some members of our kitchen staff who have been deemed fit to return to work have volunteered to work alongside the staff of the catering company until the QEH kitchen resumes normal operations on Sunday, March 14, 2021.”
The COO also addressed the question of the impact of the outbreak in the kitchen on the wider hospital as it relates to the spread of the virus.
“As we have reported publicly we have had cases of COVID across various departments. We do not stigmatize or single out staff or departments. All of our staff are trained to use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and hand hygiene to minimize their risk. The kitchen was different for us because, unlike other departments, the number of positive cases directly impacted our ability to continue kitchen operations. There are no reports that the kitchen staff are linked to the cases elsewhere in the hospital but the QEH, like many employers, continues to be impacted by community spread,” she pointed out.
Fifty of the 62 QEH kitchen staff members were placed in quarantine, after a total of 12 tested positive for the virus over the last week. They will remain in quarantine until March 14 when they are expected to resume normal duties at the hospital.
In the meantime, the kitchen work site and communal spaces such as the lunch and rest rooms will undergo a deep cleaning.
Those who were diagnosed with the virus have been housed at the Harrisons Point Isolation Facility in St Lucy.
Meanwhile, some of the staff in quarantine at a south coast hotel following the temporary closure of their facility, are now facing a new challenge.
At least one of the quarantined employees who was able to reach out to Barbados TODAY via a family member, reported today that the workers are being subjected to a diet of bread and butter, tuna and under-cooked chicken.
To make matters worse, the worker said, they are not being given any options or alternative meals for those who do not eat meat or tuna.
“I had to take breakfast, lunch and dinner for her,” the family member declared.
“In there like prison. Up to now, she has not had any breakfast yet. Yesterday morning I had to carry breakfast, lunch and dinner for her. For breakfast they gave her butter and bread; then for lunch they told her she has to eat a tuna sub; she doesn’t eat tuna. Then in the evening, they decided to carry chicken and rice…when she checked the chicken inside all the blood running out. The chicken cooked on the outside and not on the inside,” the distraught family member stated.
Barbados TODAY also understands that another kitchen employee was so overcome by the state of affairs inside the south coast quarantine facility, that counsellors had to be summoned to the hotel to assist the female worker.
“One of the other ladies was so bad that they had to call in the counsellors to speak to her yesterday…and then another one who only eats fish, could not eat anything at all in the evening because all they had was chicken,” the source claimed.
However, reports indicate that another group of kitchen staff who are in quarantine at another south coast hotel is “having the time of their lives.”
“The staff now that are down at [….] they down there having the time of their lives. Everything down there is perfect…the full English breakfast. It just seems like here is where the problem is,” the source declared.
When Barbados TODAY reached out to Manager of Quarantine Facilities Alvin Hart this afternoon, he confirmed that there are challenges regarding the food being served, but pointed out that this was limited to that facility.
He was nevertheless quick to explain that the issue was being rectified.
“I do not manage hotels. These are hotels that have been used from the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have discussed with hotel management and we are working on the challenges at hand. We are addressing the food issue that you brought up. That is being dealt with,” Hart said.
He added: “We just got a few complaints from this instance It is not a perennial problem. I am not sure what happened. I guess the numbers…probably they didn’t have enough people working at this time and now getting out people and now buying stock. I am not finding excuses for the place but there was a lockdown; so all of that probably could have assisted with this problem.”
Hart said while it was not a widespread challenge, efforts were being made to improve the accommodation conditions of persons in quarantine facilities across the island.
“We are working on trying to make things as feasible as possible. We don’t have any challenges [with the other facilities]. These people have been working this for a long time, from the beginning of the outbreak. But I am going to tell you, regardless of how good things are, people are still going to complain because people don’t want to be in quarantine. We see a lot of that, but we try our best to make things as good as possible,” the quarantine facilities’ manager contended.