Local hospital moves to pre-packaged hot meals

Families and staff lament loss of fresh-cooked foods

Some residents in the community are expressing profound dismay after hearing Interior Health (IH) has eliminated the freshly cooked main courses prepared for patients in the cafeteria of the South Cariboo Health Centre.

Families of patients and residents, and the employees union are concerned the hospital’s cafeteria staff is no longer cooking any hot meals from scratch, but rather warming up pre-packaged, prepared entrees and side dishes to serve to the patients.

Hospital Employees Union (HEU) spokesperson Mike Old says this change is believed to be another stage in an ongoing move to a standardized menu at health centres across British Columbia.

“What we understand is the health authority has moved to a standardized menu for all of their smaller sites and their long-term care homes.”

This means that pre-cooked foods are now brought in from health centre cafeterias in other communities – sometimes hundreds of kilometres away – and then reheated for the meals served to local patients, he explains.

“This is [rather] an unfortunate development. Our members at 100 Mile House take a great deal of pride in cooking the homemade, nutritious meals for residents and patients.

“This is pretty essential for recovery and staying as healthy as possible, especially for residential care patients who are often there for a long time.”

Old adds in the HEU’s view, it would have been a “better outcome” for 100 Mile House to retain the freshly cooked meals.

“At this point, we are not aware of any staff reductions or job downgrades that are accompanying this change, but we will be keeping an eye on the situation, for sure.”

Some prepared meals have been seen on the local health centre’s menu for years, but whether cooked or reheated, the cafeteria staff prepare all the meals served to patients at the 100 Mile District General Hospital and the long-term care residents at Fischer Place/Mill Site Lodge.

100 Mile House resident Gus Horn says as both a past patient and as a family member of former patients in the hospital and long-term care facilities, he is concerned about the impacts of this change on the quality of both the food, and the health care provided in 100 Mile House.

While the change to pre-prepared food has been gradually seen at the health centre, he says a change to a menu of pre-packaged hot meals is a “travesty of the facility.”

“Kitchens are designed and built to cook food, not warm it up.”

Like Horn’s father and aunt, many local residents will eventually spend time in long-term care at the health centre, and this change affects both aging patients and their

families, Horn notes.

“These are senior citizens … and they deserve fresh and tasty food.”

Both parents of Horse Lake resident Norma Jones were in long-term care at the health centre.

She says the quality of the food they were served as residents was critical to their health and well-being – as it is to everyone everywhere.

However, IH support services manager Bernadette Schultheiss says the change is about meeting Ministry of Health food guidelines and the BC Informed Dining Initiative, and is part of IH’s move toward providing a consistent food service across the health region.

“It introduces a healthier and heart-friendly menu focusing on reduced sodium.

“All the fresh fruits and vegetables are [still] prepared at the site. The main course is oven-heated in 100 Mile from our Vernon facility.”

However, Horn says serving food that is not only healthy, but also appealing to the appetite of patients with compromised health is critical to their overall recovery, or sometimes even to sustaining their current condition.

“The quality of patient care, the taste of the food and the health and well-being of the patient, that’s the issue.

“The better you eat, the better your health will be. It’s a simple equation.”

100 Mile House Free Press

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