PEI

How new food trays are combating patient malnutrition at the QEH

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown has introduced new food trays designed to keep food hotter and to improve the dining experience for patients in its care.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital made a $130K upgrade to its food tray system

Food trays have a new look at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. Each plate is heated and insulated with its own lid to keep food hot for patients in an effort to improve the dining experience for patients. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown has introduced new food trays designed to keep food hotter and to improve the dining experience for patients in its care.

The new system is part of an initiative lead by the hospital's nutrition services manager Catriona Wilson.

"The old tray system that we had was implemented when the hospital opened," said Wilson. "The previous tray system had a partial lid which was very heavy and awkward for patients."

Wilson added that the insulation on the old system wasn't keeping the food hot.

Combating patient malnutrition

Instead of the previous rectangular shaped plate, the hospital now uses round plates with heated bases, topped with dome lids. The presentation has a similar style to hotel room service according to Wilson.

The new system was implemented in November 2017 and is an effort to encourage more patients to eat their food. 

QEH food service manager Catriona Wilson says the new system helps deliver the 220 trays per meal faster, which means food arrives to the patient while it's fresh. A circular plate also improves the experience. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"It's a real challenge having patients try and eat in hospital. It's not familiar. It's not 'what mom made, or what my wife made,' so it is a real challenge for us," said Wilson.

"If the food looks pleasing and appetizing on a plate or a tray then the patient is apt to eat it."

New plates, refrigeration and delivery carts

The hospital went through $130,000 in upgrades to bring in the new system, which was sponsored by the QEH Ladies Auxiliary.

The kitchen now has new refrigerators that help keep food colder and a plate warmer that helps keep food hot up for up to 40 minutes.

There's also a new cart system that helps deliver 20 trays of food at a time, meaning a quicker delivery to patients according to Wilson.

Changes for patients and staff

Wilson said while the new system has made several improvements to how the hospital serves food, it's been an adjustment for both staff and patient.

"It was quite a change for staff because they had to change where they were going to place the food items," she said.

According to Wilson, food presentation hadn't been altered at the QEH since it opened in the 1980's. (Submitted by Catriona Wilson/QEH)

As for patients, Wilson said there was mixed reaction.

"Some were very pleased … that the food was hotter. Some said the food was too hot."

And while the trays themselves are also heavier than the older ones for staff to carry, Wilson said the changes are worthwhile if they help patients eat.

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