A canteen operator of the Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) appealed to the High Court on May 28 saying she was dissatisfied with the dzongkhag court’s May 17 judgement.

She filed a case against the hospital for terminating a five-year contract agreement between her and the hospital before the term ended. 

She got the contract to operate the canteen at the hospital through open bidding. The contract agreement ends on November 30, 2020.

The court’s judgement stated that the canteen operator has to pay the eight-month’s rent to the hospital that she did not pay, which amounts to Nu 1,371,320.51, within two months from the date of judgement. 

Meanwhile, the hospital has to pay her Nu 62,711 she incurred for kitchen maintenance in the canteen at the hospital.

The canteen operator said she has been incurring loss after the hospital started two coffee shops in the hospital premises. She could not pay the rent of Nu 81,777 a month. “I have repeatedly appealed to the hospital’s president and the hospital administration both in writing and verbally that opening the coffee shops would affect my business.”

“If they are to open the coffee shops then I requested them to reduce my rent but they did not consider it,” she added.

She claims that after the two coffee shops opened in the premises last year, her business was greatly affected.

The judgement also states that she could not provide documents to prove that her business was affected after the two coffee shops were opened. 

She said it is visible to everyone that her business was affected after the two coffee shops were opened.

An official with the hospital said the hospital notified the canteen operator to pay the rent when she did not pay for two months. “Despite the notification, she did not pay the rent.”

She said the hospital then had cut water and electricity lines for the canteen. She continued to operate the canteen until the hospital terminated the contract agreement. 

The official said the hospital cancelled the contract agreement because the canteen operator did not pay rent for eight months. He added that the contract agreement did not say that the hospital cannot open new canteen or coffee shops in the premises.

The canteen operator said the canteen space was an open space when she took over. According to BAFRA rules and regulations, a canteen cannot be operated in an open space. So, she built the current structure and it costs her more than Nu 500,000.

“I couldn’t leave the business even after incurring loss because I spent so much money in it,” she said. “I have already been suffering loss and the Thimphu dzongkhag court asked me to pay the huge amount to the hospital. This is why I appealed to the high court.”

The judgement also states that within 10 days of the date of judgement, she had to dismantle the entire structure. Since she appealed to the high court, the time period does not apply for now.

“I expected the officials at the hospital to consider my request, advise us if we are doing anything wrong or if the people complained about the food in our canteen,” she said. “If the responsible officials make things difficult then is it not possible for people like us to make a living and survive.”

Dechen Tshomo