YK Poudel 

To meet the infection control policy, the National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH) in Thimphu discontinued the canteen services within the hospital area. It has been more than a month since this change was in place.

Two canteens located near the entrance of the hospital sold snacks and edible foods, making it convenient for visitors to the hospital. The canteens were closed after completing their contract terms. 

Hospital visitors need to wait for a few more months until a new canteen opens in different locations for outpatients. 

One of the canteen contractors, Karma Gyelmo, said that she vacated the space due to constant pressure from the hospital administration. “The management said that the place is getting unhygienic.”

However, she said that hygiene was not a problem in her shop. “We cleaned the area frequently.” 

Paying Nu 400,000 monthly rent to the hospital, she employed 12 workers during the two-year contract term. She wanted to extend the contract until the end of this year, but the hospital management refused. 

The long-term patients and attendants welcomed the change in the hospital, but they hope that the new canteen services would start soon. Without options for ready-made snacks and edibles, they depend on the in-patient food provided by the hospital. 

One of the patients who visited the hospital said that the sudden closure of the canteen caused inconveniences to patients.  Another patient said that although the prices of the snacks were high at the canteen, they were serving fresh foods which was convenient for out-patients. 

The hospital’s sudden decision has affected patient attendants and out-patients who necessarily need not eat from the hospital mess.

JDWNRH’s administration officer, Tashi, said that the hospital has a plan to slowly do away with the canteens in the hospital area to keep it clean and to control diseases. “As the monsoon starts, a dirty hospital will attract various diseases that are infectious and communicable. It will attract flies and dogs which will make it unhygienic for the patients.”

The hospital has plans to start a new canteen within the hospital for in-patients and one outside the hospital premises. 

The spaces that were earlier used by the two canteens will be used as pharmacies.