The island’s sole general hospital has launched an investigation into reports of theft from its kitchen even as it embarks on wider internal audits of food inventory to determine the level of losses and the action that must be taken.
Executive Chairperson of the state-run Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland said Wednesday that management is aware of reports of stealing from the kitchen.
“We are indeed getting reports of theft from the kitchen and we have a responsibility as stewards of taxpayers’ funds to investigate so that monies invested by the public in the QEH are spent on patients and not frittered away,” Bynoe-Sutherland told Barbados TODAY.
“We have to establish the source of the theft of patient resources. We have some very wonderful and honest kitchen staff and hope to get to the bottom of this issue with their assistance and that of their unions who I believe are equally committed to preventing loss of this nature,” she stated.
The executive chair disclosed that the hospital has engaged the services of a consultant to establish a new QEH security force that is now “a welcome addition” to the hospital’s family.
She said that the focus of the consultant is on patient and staff safety, security of buildings, plant and equipment and loss prevention.
Director of Finance Adrian Hurley elaborated on the action being taken to get to the bottom of this matter.
“We are doing internal audits of issues from food stores and comparing it to meals cooked so we can make an assessment of costs so we can move beyond the anecdotal. We also want to be fair to staff who will feel scrutinized by this deep dive into the data. Having solid data allows for determination of the scale of response that may be required,” Hurley said.
“Fortunately, the patients do not feel shortages of food but if we have to spend more resources on food than required it depletes funds needed for other areas of the hospital,’ he warned.
The finance director said the hospital continues to review and improve its internal controls and operating procedures to ensure its assets are protected from material loss.
“Where material loss is found, a thorough investigation is undertaken by the internal audit department and a report is submitted with the findings and recommendations for improved internal controls in that area are made…the kitchen is no exception,” he declared.
Hurley said the issue of loss and efficiency was one on which the hospital has focused since the existing board was installed and particularly this financial year.
He explained that this includes the food service with a reduced budget due to the current fall in revenue from an under-performing Health Levy due to the impact of COVID-19 on key sectors of the economy such as tourism.
Barbados TODAY understands that the handbags of some kitchen employees were searched on Saturday by security personnel.
One staff member said that president of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall visited the hospital earlier this week to try to address the matter on behalf of the kitchen staff.
But up to Wednesday evening, the QEH Executive Chair said she had not received any complaints from the union.
Persistent calls to McDowall’s phone went unanswered and when Barbados TODAY reached out to Acting General Secretary Wayne Walrond, he said he was unaware of the allegations of theft. ([email protected])