Windsor

Mental health patients at WRH can once again choose meals from standard menu

Mental health patients staying at Windsor Regional Hospital can once again choose their own meals — even if they're not vegetarian or require a specialized diet. 

Windsor Regional Hospital previously reduced menu options to reduce waste and cut costs

Nichole Howson spent time in the mental health ward during the change. After she found out the hospital revert back to their original food menu she said she almost cried. 1:07

Mental health patients staying at Windsor Regional Hospital can once again choose their own meals — even if patients aren't vegetarian or require a specialized diet. 

Steve Erwin, manager of corporate communications, government and community relations, at Windsor Regional Hospital, confirmed the news in an email to CBC News on Monday.

Erwin declined an interview and didn't provide further comment. 

Nichole Howson spent time in the mental health ward during the change. After she found out the hospital reverted back to their original food menu, she said she almost cried.

"A lot of prepackaged snack kind of foods came with our meals," she said. "One day we got fresh salad and I talked about that for like the whole day. I was so excited about a salad."

One morning she said everyone was provided french toast, but one person was vegan, so they were given a piece of plain toast, no jam, no anything.

Windsor Regional Hospital says its food is made fresh every day, and as a result, is costlier, compared to other hospitals across the province. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC)

"It was kind of heartbreaking to watch him stare. He just stared at his food, kind of like, really?" she said. "So it wasn't a good experience for him and we all felt incredibly bad too. There was nothing we could really do about it."

Before Howson left, she said she warned a new patient about being picky with food.

"I said, 'Oh you're gonna want to eat that. You're gonna get hungry. After a few days you're going to eat whatever they give you, whether you like it or not.'"

Now that the hospital will once again allow mental health patients to choose their meals, Howson said it's going to be big for them.

"We're in the hospital to get better and if you strip people of all the skills that they need, like decision-making, you're stripping them of that, and so when they do go back out into the real world, they have to re-learn that. It doesn't seem like we're helping people transition into a normal lifestyle," Howson said.

Windsor Regional Hospital previously reduced menu options for mental health patients in September, as a means of reducing waste and cutting costs.

"What we really wanted to do is have a more family-style approach with those patients, so that they're sitting down together, they're all eating the same sort of thing," said Monica Stanton, director of guest services for the hospital, in September. 

As a result, while other patients were allowed to choose their own meals, mental health patients had their meals selected for them by hospital staff — unless patients required a vegetarian or specialized diet. 

With files from Katerina Georgieva and Stacey Janzer

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