Nova Scotia

Halifax hospital now rolling out new food system floor by floor

A Halifax hospital is changing its rollout of a new food system that left patients waiting for meals for hours.

Union says more staff needed to ensure delivery goes smoothly

Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union, says the new food service model will take time to roll out correctly due to some gaps. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

A Halifax hospital is scaling back the rollout of a new food system that has faced a week of challenges, including patients waiting hours for meals.

The new room-service dining model was recently rolled out for patients at the QEII's Halifax Infirmary, where restaurant-style meals could be ordered, freshly prepared and delivered to specific rooms.

But some people reported difficulties ordering their meals through the new phone system, and food was delayed sometimes up to four hours, often arriving cold.

On Friday evening, the patients received an update on their supper food trays, according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority.

The note said that while patients have reported that the quality of food and range of options is excellent, the hospital has faced "significant challenges" in delivering food within the desired one-hour timeframe. There was also an apology.

The hospital has decided to take a step back and roll out room service floor by floor at the Halifax Infirmary, rather than all at once, to ensure the right processes are in place to consistently deliver meals on time.

"We're a true believer in 'get it right,'" Jason MacLean, president with the Nova Scotia General Employees Union, said Saturday.

He said the union represents about 150 people in support services at the QEII.

The Halifax Infirmary building at the QEII.

Effective Saturday, room service will only be offered on the 7th floor of the Halifax Infirmary. Other floors will return temporarily to the previous model, where a patient had to choose meals a day or two in advance.

The service will be extended to other floors once it is working well on the 7th floor.

"Now they can do it incrementally, which will have it done right," MacLean said.

MacLean has heard that members have been working hard for the past few weeks to prepare for the launch, including lots of overtime as the rollout began.

One main problem was the hospital had miscalculated meals, MacLean said, missing around 500 patients per day it would have to serve.  That meant challenges working with existing space, and at first it didn't have staff organized in the right way to handle the capacity. 

There have also been some issues with tracking patients as they sign in and out of the hospital at different times of day, and making sure the kitchen is aware where everyone is, MacLean said.

They also quickly realized more workers were needed to help clean and prep the kitchens so cooks could turn food out more quickly. 

MacLean said the union is working with the health authority to hopefully hire a few more people in those roles.