Supplying food to child patients at the Lady Ridgeway Hospital(LRH) has turned out to be an elephantine task with sky rocketing prices, suppliers were facing a daunting task to meet the demand of supplying food items as requested. The LRH being one of the most prominent  tertiary care children’s hospitals in Colombo is facing a severe problem as suppliers do not provide items according to the hospital’s needs due to skyrocketing inflation and many other issues, at a time when the Colombo Consumer Price Index increased by 29.8 per cent in April.

As the national referral centre for pediatric care for Sri Lanka, once deemed to be the largest Children’s Hospital in South Asia, in a way this problem has seriously affected every child in our country. LRH is home to more than 25 specialities, 40 units and has more than 1,016 beds. It treats children under 14 years with annual admissions of 84,299 and total OPD visits of 64,7138. The above statistics show the severity of the problem and also it gives us an idea about the amount of food needed to feed patients.

Speaking to Ceylon Today, LRH Deputy Director, Dr. Santhushitha Senapathy said  suppliers do not provide food items according to the hospital’s demand due to the prevailing economic issue like the surge in prices and the non-availability of certain food items in the market. “There are some specific types of food, especially types of fish such as Thalapath, that are permitted for children in our hospital (LRH) but now it is very difficult to find these items in the market. There have been several occasions where we have found it difficult to provide even eggs for patient’s meal. The food we recommend are different from patient to patient. Today morning we provide them ash plantains, brinjals and carrot which is not a good combination. Sometimes children do not like to eat them. We are helpless yet can do nothing,” he added.  Dr.Senapathy said they have to prepare meals for over 1,000 patients, and when  suppliers do not bring these items on time, it is difficult to provide a nutritious meal to patients. He also highlighted that patients were given food brought by parents from home but with the present situation parents now depended on food supplied by the hospital.

He stressed, “Suppliers have agreed to provide food for a year. So they must provide food for patients without any interruption. It is their duty because they have won the tender to supply food. We know that there are some issues in transporting goods as there is a fuel crisis in the country which is now common to everyone. These suppliers must understand that they are doing a service as a balanced diet is a major part of treatment. Here innocent children are being treated. So we all have a responsibility to keep them healthy.”

Dr.Senapathy urged that they are looking for the donors who can help to resolve these issues in LRH. As LRH is one of the best hospitals for child care, thousands from all over the country seek treatment at the LRH. Sometimes, since they travel long hours from early morning, they cannot bring their meals from home. On the other hand, nutritionists too will not be able to recommend some food items to patients as r prices have shot up.

Ceylon Today contacted a food supplier who said they were not doing this intentionally. According to him, they were trying their best to meet the demand of the hospital.

“We are living amidst a crisis. There is a food shortage in the country. Everyone is helpless. Sometimes we have to wait in long queues for hours. It is difficult to transport good with these issues. The prices are high, especially the price of food like fish, meat and eggs are increasing day by day. So it is difficult to include these items into the meals,” he said.

He also stated that the hospital’s budget for food does not match the current inflation so the hospital administration must take immediate action to resolve this problem.

Meanwhile, the Deputy Director of LRH confirmed that they were going to change the suppliers from Wednesday (1) and hoped that things will take a turn for the better.

Not only in prominent hospitals such as the LRH but also in many other hospitals in the remote areas were facing these problems and at certain instances it was even worse. The Government authorities should draw up a plan to resolve these issues and make patients feel more comfortable. However, he said everything revolves round the economic crisis that is affecting the country.

BY Sahan Tennekoon