Apart from the early- shift nurses and sanitary workers, there is one group of people that is always at the Western Regional Hospital from day break; they are the food vendors. But following the recent scandalous discovery of a rodent infestation at the Western Regional Hospital, the hospital management has taken decisive action in eliminating all factors that might contribute to the growing rat problem. Unfortunately, according to the hospital, one of those factors is the food vendors who are stationed outside the hospital. The breaking news came to them today sometime around 3 o’clock this evening.
Infield Welcome; They come to us today and says we’re going to have a meeting, and we says, ok, no problem. So, we mannerly respect everything and we say, ok, we’re going for the meeting. When we went for the meeting, it was not a meeting. It was directly to us that we have to move from here immediately. Ffor what cause, I don’t know. And we doesn’t have any problem so far and now we become having a problem, and I don’t think it’s a problem because I went to them, speak to them, and I tell the, ok, who is this coming from? Who is setting this up? And I say, no. It means I have to go back to the Administrator to talk to them and she done finalize and say we have to move.
Russell Arnold Jr. I feel so sad, I don’t know what I going to do to mind my family and I am renting. I don’t know what is going to be the next step. I growing up so hard in Belize City and never yet, never do crime, never do anything in my life yet and I don’t want to live that life selling drugs or have to grab thief or trying to hurt people to mind my kids. I got a kid that is six, one is five and one is seven. School just open, just spend money. This stall, this spot that we sell is minding my family, mein. I don’t know what is going to be the next step for me.
Reporter: This pays everything?
Isabel Lopez: Up to now I don’t know what I’m going to do. They told us to come Monday to remove everything. But for me, well, it was just too sudden. I have just bought vegetables: cabbage, onions,carrots. All of that. Now it’s all going to spoil. Well now I don’t know what we are going to do.If they are going to remove us or let us stay.
The vendors, however, remain adamant that they are not a part of the rodent problem at the hospital.
Russell Arnold Jr.: They seen us, our three stalls that are here. There is another stall over there but the lady isn’t there. They seen us that probably when we sell the food that we sell, probably play a role to the rat going to the compound in the hospital. I don’t know how they see it but the problem that they have is in there. It is not out here. You know, we always clean the yard. Every day I lef’ I mek sure I clean this spot ya. I don’t see what is the problem. If they got something, if the Health Department has something against us, or they want to move us, they have to at least come and give us a letter and come and tell us a week before. But don’t do this to us cause this si shock. This is hard. Can’t live like this, mein.
Late this evening, before they went home, the vendors were served with an official letter informing them that they will have to remove themselves from the compound by Tuesday of next week. We spoke to the Senior Health Inspector of the Western Regional Hospital, Mark Bernard, who says it was a hard decision to make, but one that had to be done.
Reporter: Couldn’t the Western Regional Hospital maybe be magnanimous , in the sense that they would say, ok, today we decided that we’re going to move you but we’re going to give you at least a week to move?
Mark Bernard: That would normally be the normal order of things and we are not happy that this decision has to be made. We realize that people have to make a living. The food trade is a good job. It’s something honest and we regret that, but. like I said, when we are looking at the immediate things that we need to do, it is just unfortunate that that is also one of the things that we feel we must have control of. We have nothing personal against these people. I mean, clearly, we have been, I think we sort of bent over backwards for them to be here. We monitored them and looked at the sanitation but realize that given this current situation, that has to be one of the things on the table. I think you would agree withus, even though it might not sound too good but the health and the welfare of the patients and people tha tvisit the hospital has to take a priority over everything else. So we feel at the time, because , again, the facilities are not the best, it cannot be disinfected properly, there are scraps of food available for rodents and so for some of these reasons we feel that this is a decision that we have to take.
According to Mark Bernard, their hope is that when the Hospital has the adequate facility to host the vendors, they will allow vendors to sell their food at the hospital for the mutual benefit of staff, patients, and the vendors. In the meantime, however, all sales of food at the hospital have been put on hold.