Nfld. & Labrador

Hospital food in St. John's gets a makeover — but don't call it a microwave meal

Hospital food in general has a dubious reputation, but a new method aims to change that.

Steamplicity cooking system keeps 'food very fresh, very nutritious,' says company president

Eastern Health CEO David Diamond says the Steamplicity cod dinner tastes "just like home." (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

Eastern Health will soon be serving up steam-cooked meals to hospital patients in St. John's.

The Steamplicity cooking system will be replacing the health authority's central kitchen in four St. John's hospitals by the end of April — starting with St. Clare's Mercy Hospital on Wednesday.

The program uses microwaves to make steam and cook pre-packaged meals. Morrison Healthcare, the company behind the system, says their technology — with a special film packaging and valve — uses water molecules inside the food to make steam, and makes a better meal than a typical microwaved dinner.

"The microwave is just the technology we use to heat it up and get the steam going ... It gives us the capability to keep the food very fresh, very nutritious," said Maarten Galesloot, a president at Compass Group Canada, which owns Morrison Healthcare.

The Compass Group says Steamplicity meals can be cooked in three to five minutes. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

The Steamplicity program will also give patients more choice for their food, according to Eastern Health CEO David Diamond.

Patients will see employees visit their rooms to take orders each day.

"You will have a restaurant-style experience where you will be able to choose from a menu the food that works for you on that given day," he said.

Diamond said Steamplicity's model has resulted in a decrease of food waste in hospitals.

He tried the cod and said it was "very good. Just like home."

Millions saved, says CEO

Eastern Health estimates that about $2 million will be saved through the transition to microwave cooking. That's after a start-up cost of about $5.5 million.

The savings are due to the program using the equivalent of 26 fewer full-time workers.

The Steamplicity system means patients will get to order off of a menu to pick what they want to eat. (Carolyn Stokes/CBC)

Diamond says no full-time employees at Eastern Health will lose their jobs because of the change — all have been reassigned — but said there is now "less opportunity" for temporary workers.

"We're very sympathetic to the impact on staff, we're trying to do everything we can," he said.

"We're really pleased that we've been able to do that with the permanent staff that have been involved and now we're trying to work through and make sure we mitigate as much as we can on the temporary."

The Steamplicity model will be implemented at the Dr. Leonard A. Miller Centre, the Waterford Hospital, the Health Sciences Centre and the Janeway by April 11.

With files from Carolyn Stokes

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