Councillor claims trickery in veterans' hospital food flap

A Pictou Country councillor says the local health authority fooled councillors into believing the savory dinner they were served on a recent visit was the same quality of food the war veteran residents eat everyday.
Coun. Jim Turple said the food he was fed on his unofficial visit to the Northumberland Veteran's Unit was unacceptable. (CBC)

A Pictou Country councillor says the local health authority fooled councillors into believing the savory dinner they were served on a recent visit to the veterans' hospital was the same quality of food the residents eat everyday.

The Pictou County Health Authority invited local councillors to the Northumberland Veteran's Unit for a dinner on Oct. 29.  

About 20 war veterans stay at the hospital wing and the dinner was hosted to prove their meals are adequate and appetizing. 

But Coun. Jim Turple said staff told him the chicken pasta councillors ate was better than what the veterans normally eat.

"Yes we were served the same meal, but there were much more additives put into our serving to make it taste like something, and that's very distasteful," said Turple.

So after eating the enticing plate Turple decided to drop by the Northumberland Veterans Unit for two more meals, this time unannounced.

He said both of his subsequent meals were "unacceptable."

Jim Turple enters the Northumberland Veteran's Unit in Pictou County. (CBC)


From fresh to frozen

The health authority has changed how the veterans' meals are made over the last six months. They used to be cooked daily at a kitchen at the hospital, but now are made offsite. They are then delivered to the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow to be frozen. Finally they are delivered to the Pictou facility three days a week.

The change was made to save roughly $70,000 a year.

"Before May the ninth it was all in house cooked meals, they were fantastic, second to none. And on May ninth it was just given to them, here is what you're going to eat from now on," said Bernie Currie, whose father was a member of the navy and worked on minesweepers during the Second World War.

Currie's father now lives, and eats, at the Northumberland Veterans Unit.

Both men said they're fed up with the disagreeable food.

"You'll find the Burnside prison has gone to an Aramark-type of food service, these frozen type dinners. So if our vets, if any of them were incarcerated, wouldn't notice a change in their food," said Currie.

Currie said he is frustrated with the decision makers.

A veteran pushes away his meal. (CBC)


The Pictou County Health Authority said it's not planning to revisit its food strategy.

Camp Hill also faced complaints

The Northumberland Veteran's Wing isn't the only hospital facing food complaints.

An 84-year-old Nova Scotia war veteran raised concerns about the food at the Camp Hill Veterans' Memorial Building at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax in August.

Jack Walsh called the food "bland" and "tasteless."

Veterans Affairs Minister, Steven Blaney, said he would appoint a dietitian to review the food at Camp Hill.