Nova Scotia

Hospital moves to fresh, cooked-to-order meals

When it comes to hospital food, meal time generally has a bad reputation. But it's hoped that will change next year at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEll Health Sciences Centre.

2014 study showed nearly half of Canadian patients entering and leaving hospital were malnourished

Patients staying at the Halifax Infirmary will be able to order freshly prepared meals from their bedside starting in the spring. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

When it comes to hospital food, meal time generally has a bad reputation.

But it's hoped that will change next year at the Halifax Infirmary site of the QEll Health Sciences Centre.

The hospital is introducing restaurant-style meals that will be ordered, freshly prepared and delivered to patients in their rooms.

"We are in the process of switching over our method of preparation and delivery of food to room-service dining," said Marilyn Cipak, director of nutrition and food services for the Nova Scotia Health Authority's central zone.

"Our staff will go in and take the order at bedside and the food will be prepared fresh and ready to go in small kitchens on the unit."

Small kitchen units will be installed over the winter.

That's a major shift in the large-scale kitchen that serves the entire hospital.

Scheduled to be up and running sometime in the spring, the new food delivery program will offer dozens of healthy food choices.

Patients currently have to choose their meals a day or two in advance, but the new system will allow for more flexibility.

"Currently patients might be at a test or other services within the hospital and we would deliver their meals and they aren't even in their room," said Cipak.

"When they come back their food is cold, so they may not eat. Patients not eating is a problem."

Hospital staff will take food orders from patients and have their meals ready for them in 45 minutes or less.

The new kitchen units will be installed over the winter.

The switch is being made after results from a 2014 study by the Canadian Malnutrition Task Force showed nearly half of Canadian patients entering and leaving hospital were malnourished.

"Food is medicine and food does help us heal and recover faster," said Cipak.

"That's why we want this process in place, so patients will get the food fresh and they will get to eat what they want."

Cipak said the new dining model will also mean a drastic reduction in food waste at the hospital. She says 35 to 40 per cent of hospital food is not eaten by patients.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.

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