NGOs and families should not be feeding hospital patients

The author with friends at the Solid Africa party on Friday

The author with friends at the Solid Africa party on Friday

Last Friday I attended a house party in Kacyiru. While attending a shindig isn’t exactly news for anyone who knows me, what was noteworthy is the reason why I and about fifty or so people, where partying in the first place. For you see, the party was thrown by Solid Africa.

Now if you haven’t heard of Solid Africa, here is a rundown; it is a local NGO founded by young Rwandans who want to give back to their community. One of their biggest projects is their patient feeding programme at CHUK (University Teaching Hospital of Kigali). That very programme is why were partying. The Friday party was actually a fundraising event meant to raise money for the Solid Africa.

Sipping a beer (it was for a good cause) I took one Solid Africa membe and queried her about the feeding programme. What she told meboth angered and concerned me. Solid Africa went around CHUK, joining other NGOs’, feeding hungry patients unable to buy food for themselves or without family and friends bringing them food.

The Solid Africa feeding programme at CHUK

The Solid Africa feeding programme at CHUK

In fact, it has come to my attention that every Monday, Solid Africa gives 300 vulnerable patients a healthy lunch. While this is a great initiative by well meaning young people, who should be supported, I have issues with the situation that makes them so vital for CHUK patients.

Now it might seem strange for many out there for me to see something wrong with this feeding programme, especially because bringing food to ill friends and family (kugemura) is an entrenched aspect of our culture. However, we should examine the issue further.

First of all, why should their families, never mind NGOs, even feed patients in our hospitals? Around the world hospitals feed their patients, so I’m not advocating for something unreasonable or even revolutionary.

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Imagine this scenario: a patient is wheeled out of the operating theatre after stomach surgery. The doctor prescribes a specialized meal plan to the patient’s caregivers and then goes his/her way. A week or so later, the patient, who had been healing, suddenly complains of sharp pains in their stomach. Is the pain perhaps caused by the food that they are eating? Is the patient not getting the food that the doctor ordered? Or has the food been prepared in an unhygienic way, causing some sort of infection? I imagine that hospitals around the world (and our own King Faisal Hospital) provide meals to patients to ensure that they can control what goes into patient’s mouths. So, the question is, why isn’t CHUK able to do that?

The Solid Africa member informed me that it was because CHUK, and the other hospitals around the country simply didn’t have the budget needed to buy enough medicine, never mind feeding patients. To that excuse say I say “nonsense”.

Why can’t hospitals provide the meals to in-patients and then pass on the final bill to the patients and their insurance providers? If insurance providers need to increase premiums by a few hundred francs, so be it. And if the insurance providers say “no”, then I say, let our government pay for it. After all, we give prisoners three square meals. If we can feed rapists, killers and thieves, we should be able to feed our sick.

I simply don’t think we should ask NGOs’ and private citizens to provide services that government institutions should provide.10533114_669116186503584_2403201774701288357_n

Plus, what assurance do hospitals have that the NGOs are providing good, clean food? Imagine if the food has some salmonella or E-coli and as a result of infection a patient dies? Does the NGO not bear direct responsibility for death? What protection does a well meaning NGO have against a lawsuit? None.

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