The union representing kitchen staff at the state-owned Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has strongly condemned the alleged searching of staff by security officers amidst claims of food being stolen from that department.
“I find it quite unfortunate that this story has been made public even before an investigation has been done. The QEH kitchen staff cannot be accused, tried and convicted without any evidence,” said President of the National Union of Public Workers (NUPW) Akanni McDowall.
He said the workers indicated that they were the only ones being searched.
“When I met informally with management, they agreed that there was no policy in place for searching staff and, therefore, kitchen staff should not be searched until one is established,” the union president stated.
He said the NUPW has always insisted on transparency and fairness.
“It may very well be discovered that the staff are not only innocent, but have been going above and beyond the call to take care of the patients’ nutritional needs. This is highly unconducive to good morale and we denounce this type of approach no matter how serious it is. There must be fairness alongside transparency,” McDowall declared.
The hospital has launched an investigation into the 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 to be taken.
Executive Chairperson Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland said Wednesday that management was 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 consultant to establish a new QEH security force “that is now a welcome addition to our 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, said earlier this week: “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 themselves scrutinized by this deep dive into the data. Having solid data allows for determination of the scale of response that may be required,” Hurley told Barbados TODAY.
Barbados TODAY understands that the hand bags of some kitchen employees were searched on Saturday by security personnel. ([email protected])