KLANG, April 14 — An institution meant to heal the sick and wounded has become a safety hazard to both its visitors and staff.
An inspection of the canteen of Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital last week revealed unhygienic surroundings, resulting in a two-week closure. The inspection was carried out following reports the hospital was infested with rats.
What is more shocking is the officials were not forthcoming about the fiasco. The hospital director, Dr Ding Lay Ming, was too “busy” to answer queries about the matter — which was not even discussed during a meeting between hospital directors and the Selangor state health department yesterday.
This is not the first time the canteen was ordered to close. In February 2005, the state health department ordered the canteen to close for 14 days after it was found to be “unhygienic”. According to the health department then, the operator had ignored two previous clean-up warnings.
The inspection, led by the hospital’s health department, revealed “the standard of hygiene at the cafeteria was below par”, as stated on the notice plastered at its entrance.
The canteen, which was sealed last Friday, will be closed until April 23 “as it posed a health risk to the public”.
Workers at the hospital, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the cafeteria’s operator, Kasulin Sdn Bhd, was sacked. Another staff said the rats running around the hospital was “nothing new”.
However, Dr Ding remained tight-lipped. She insisted she was busy when met by Malay Mail. She later said: “It is standard to close the canteen when it is dirty.” She declined to comment further.
Checks by Malay Mail at the hospital yesterday revealed rat poison strategically located near drains around the cafeteria. As the cafeteria was closed, staff and visitors were directed to the hospital’s second cafeteria located in another building. It was overcrowded, even after lunch hour.
Selangor state health department director Dr S. Balachandran said the inspection was conducted by the hospital’s health department and he was aware of the situation.
“The operator failed to fulfill the standard requirements practised in the food and beverage industry and was, therefore, ordered to be closed temporarily. The area must be cleaned up as another inspection by the hospital’s health department will determine if the cafeteria will be reopened or otherwise.”
Balachandran said it was “normal” for the hospital’s health unit to conduct inspections and they had the power to close down a premise that did not meet standard hygiene requirements.
“Dr Ding was (in a rush) as she was meeting me (yesterday), with other hospital directors. We did not speak about the canteen as there were other hospital directors during the meeting.”
Balachandran did not have more details on the reason behind the temporary closure, stressing that the inspection was conducted by the hospital’s health department.
“The notice displayed is a standard notice,” he said, when pointed out the state health department’s name was on the notice.
Klang MCA Youth deputy chief Tan Bok Koon said the authorities should take action against the operator for running the cafeteria in such a manner.
“How can this happen? People come to the hospital to get better, not to get sick,” said Tan, who was at the hospital grounds yesterday.
“It shows the operator lacks responsibility in maintaining the area. Hospital staff and visitors will lose faith in the institution. I have eaten here before and now that there are rats, people would be afraid to come.”
The episode disappointed Deputy Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Hilmi Yahaya.
“It is disappointing this happened in a hospital, especially since it has happened before,” he said.
“The hospital authorities should be more alert about cleanliness and cleaners should be more responsible in ensuring the canteen’s hygiene.”
This is not the first time the hospital has hogged the spotlight for the wrong reasons.
In January last year, Malay Mail reported the deplorable condition of the hospital where rubbish bins were overflowing while toilets and wards were not cleaned for nine days. A similar episode happened in 2012.
A hospital staff had then told Malay Mail the hospital authority had instructed nurses to clean the toilets.