Who is to be held accountable for the shocking conditions revealed at the Western Regional Hospital this week? The answer is apparently still being determined, as health officials in Belmopan continue to hold serious discussions with the management at the Western Regional Hospital after a significant crisis erupted last week Friday.
The Reporter has been informed that on that day, one staff member, frustrated with a foul smell which had been coming from the food storage room for weeks, decided to investigate. She discovered that a horde of rats had made the food pantry their home.
The rats had taken over the room, and were found all over the place. The room where food supplies for hospital patients are stored is dilapidated to the point of criminal neglect, posing a serious health risk by itself. The floor of the storeroom was filthy and grimy, with sagging storage shelves, doors to lockers suspended on busted hinges. and broken-down windows.
There were holes in the walls of the store room, through which the rats had no trouble entering. Food supplies kept in this storeroom included rice, flour, beans, powdered milk, sugar and meats. The hospital kitchen, located next door, uses these supplies to prepare daily meals which are served not only to patients at the hospital but also to members of the medical staff.
Reliable sources have informed the Reporter that the storeroom has been in this dilapidated condition for years and that hospital management has been told about these conditions on many occasions.
Today senior staffers, Regional Health Manager, Melinda Guerra and Hospital Administrator, Bernadette Nicholson are in the hot seat after pictures of the warehouse were leaked to the media.
Guerra, by way of explanation, said: “We know that something slipped down when it comes to our infection control measures…the cleanliness, the hygiene of this place is not well kept! So we are hoping to address the situation, to rehabilitate the building as soon as possible.”
But addressing the situation today doesn’t take away from the callous negligence which could have easily resulted in catastrophic infection. Rats are known to carry diseases which are deadly to humans, including leptospirosis and hemorrhagic fever. And food, like the food kept in the hospital’s storage room, has shared space with many rats for many months.
Guerra admits that the food storage space is a high risk area because food goes directly from the storage room to the kitchen. But she says that on the bright side no patient, doctor or staff member has come down with leptospirosis so far.
So who’s to face disciplinary charges from what has been described as a “slip-down”? Meanwhile, there is talk of a complete renovation of the food storage space, but no word of when that will occur.