HEALTH FACILITY CATERING / NUTRITION AND DIETETIC SERVICES:
CLINICALLY GOVERNED HOSPITALS MUST HAVE FUNCTIONAL, WELL-EQUIPPED AND PROFESSIONALLY STAFFED CATERING / NUTRITION AND DIETETIC SERVICES TO CATER FOR PATIENTS AND STAFF.
The 12 Pillar Clinical Governance programme is proven to deliver a transformed health sector and system, including that hospitals and health facilities cannot fully leverage on the implementation Clinical Governance without Catering / Nutrition and Dietetics Services. I was very happy to see Dr. Chudi Ukpaka feature functional Catering Services in his lecture on: ‘Pillars on Infrastructure, Equipment, Utilities including Hygiene and Sanitation in hospitals’ on 18th May 2023.
The prevention of hospital malnutrition and food borne illnesses offers a tremendous opportunity to optimize the overall quality of patient care, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce costs. Unfortunately, malnutrition continues to go unrecognized and untreated in many hospitalised patients in our context. Hospitals in Low- and Middle-Income countries, often ignore the importance of this service in ‘Protecting Patients, Supporting Practitioners in Tandem’.
Even though it is well known that malnutrition is associated with adverse clinical outcomes, delayed healing and recovery, thereby causing increased cost of care for patient and the system, it is often overlooked by health facility providers and managers. It is estimated that at least one third of patients arrive at the hospital malnourished and if left untreated many of them will continue to decline nutritionally, which may adversely impact their recovery and increase their risk of complications and readmission. In this 21st Century, it is appalling that the nutritional health and well-being of patients and health workers are not considered by government when planning and designing health facilities
Many health centres and hospitals in Nigeria expose patients and health workers to the risks of unhealthy foods prepared in unsanitary kitchen, and food poisoning from food bought from street food vendors because they lack catering and kitchen service. Local Street food hawkers and vendors are often unlicensed, untrained in food safety, food hygiene, and sanitation, and work under unsanitary conditions, hence the patients and staff who rely on them expose themselves to the risk of food poisoning. An added adverse impact is that staff with food poisoning go on sick leave thereby worsening the serious shortage of personnel to attend to patients.
Successful healthcare service delivery requires availability of adequate infrastructure, diagnostic medical equipment, drugs, and well-trained medical personnel as well as functional and well-staffed Catering /Nutrition and dietetics services. In LMICs like Nigeria, poor funding and mismanagement often bedevil healthcare service delivery thereby affecting clinical governance implementation and quality of healthcare services delivered.
Arit Ana, M.Sc. FafN, FRSPH, RNutr, RD,
Food Safety and Hygiene Lead,
Centre for Clinical Governance Research and Patient Safety @ HRI-GLOBAL. (www.hri-global.org)