By Barb McKay
A food quality review by the South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC) has determined that hospital patients are happy with the service they receive, but many still have complaints about food taste.
The results of the study, which encompassed all four hospital sites, was presented at the Sept. 26 SBGHC meeting. The review was initiated in March, eight months after a new service model was put in place in each of the hospitals. The health centre made the decision last year to close its hospital kitchens and truck in pre-made meals in an effort to cut costs. A benchmarking exercise of hospitals across the province in 2009 ranked the SBGHC 102nd out of 103 hospitals in terms of food cost. The exercise found that SBGHC paid double what comparable hospitals paid for daily meals per patient.
When the new food service model, which requires ready-made meals to be reheated, was introduced in 2011 it was unpopular with patients who wrote letters to The Independent complaining about the taste. At the time, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) questioned the quality of the food and challenged hospital executives to eat the meals for one-week.
In April and May, SBGHC staff interviewed 70 random patients at Kincardine, Durham, Walkerton and Chesley sites, collected comment cards and undertook a patient experience service. In the categories of timeliness in receiving meals, interaction with staff and accuracy of food orders, each hospital site recorded 100 per cent satisfaction. In regards to food taste, 90 per cent of patients were satisfied with the food, while only 66 per cent of Kincardine patients reported liking the taste. In terms of food variety, Walkerton, Durham and Chesley patients were satisfied, for the most part, while less than 80 per cent of Kincardine patients were happy with the number of choices available to them.
CEO Paul Rosebush said the SBGHC is pleased and encouraged by the results.
“It reflects diligent efforts on behalf of staff and the food services team to respond to our patients’ needs,” he said.
When asked why food quality review results varied between Kincardine and the other three hospitals, Rosebush said it came down to how the new food service model was accepted.
“The readiness for change wasn’t as high as in some areas,” he said.
Rosebush said the positive results of the study are due, in part, to the fact that staff is more experienced with the equipment for heating the food and there is more consistency now.
“We’re trending in the right direction now,” he said, and added that because of the success of the new model, the Hanover District Hospital has contracted the SBGHC to manage its food service.
Rosebush acknowledged there is work to do around improving food taste and providing a variety of food. A standing committee has been formed to continue surveying patients and to explore different food suppliers and food lines.
“Patient experience is important to us and a big part of that is nutrition,” he said.