Hospital meal program gives patients more choice
Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre wants to improve hospital foods' bad reputation
Posted: Jul 4, 2012 9:01 AM ET
Last Updated: Jul 4, 2012 8:58 AM ET
A national CBC investigation shows patients across Canada are giving hospital food a thumbs-down. But Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre is trying to change patient opinion with a new meal program it hopes will get more thumbs-up.
Dietary workers with the hospital’s "Expressly For You" meal program take the patient's order, serve the food and deliver it to ensure continuity. If the patient has an issue with the food the worker can address it immediately.Cathy Paroschy Harris is a dietitian, and the Nutrition and Food Services director for Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)
"When patients come into the hospital they often don't have much to look forward to other than just getting better and getting out,” said Cathy Paroschy Harris, the hospital’s nutrition and food services director and a dietitian.
“So looking forward to the food or the interaction about the food ... we want that to be as positive ... of an experience as possible."
The dietary workers are known as hosts or hostesses. Sharon Carroll said she enjoys her new role as hostess and noted patients seem to like the new system.
She uses an iPad to help log patient requests.
"So tomorrow for dinner it's going to be Sheppard's pie,” Carroll said, touching a menu button on her iPad. "And if he doesn't like Shepherd's pie, then we go to the next option — and that would be a roast turkey dinner."
Her iPad takes each patient's dietary restrictions into account and then offers up a number of choices. The iPads are connected with the hospital's information system that keeps track of patients' dietary needs — such as a soft food or diabetic diet.Sharon Carroll is a hostess with Thunder Bay Regional's Expressly for You meal program. She uses an iPad to take meal orders from patients and check dietary restrictions. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)
Meals low in sodium
Paroschy Harris said, even though budgets limit the dining options hospitals can offer, giving patients a say makes a difference.
However some may still not like the food because it's lower in sodium, she added. The hospital's meals need to meet the nutritional requirements of people suffering from chronic diseases like heart disease or diabetes.
“So for some people it might taste bland because it doesn't have the same amount of salt added to it but it is nutritious,” Paroschy Harris said. “The people that aren't on a salt restriction we [can] give them a salt packet, but [recommend] people to use that in moderation.”
Paroschy Harris said Thunder Bay Regional buys high quality food and makes it on-site.
“To provide enough food for as many patients as we are, we need to standardize the recipes so that they're as global as possible,” she said.
But pleasing all patients may not be realistic, particularly when one considers the hospital served 340 trays to patients at lunchtime on Tuesday of this week.
“So all of our recipes are made so that they're healthy to anybody who would be on a … moderate sodium-restricted diet, and then those same items can be used for a majority of the other diets that we have,” Paroschy Harris said.
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