News

Cutting food services to patients

Once standard items on hospital food trays such as coffee, tea, salt and pepper will no longer be made available unless special requested as Interior Health aims to cut food service costs.

Kootenay Lake Hospital will discontinue tea and coffee with milk and sugar; salt and pepper; milk and crackers because they were highly wasted items, says Laresa Altenhoff, manager of food and nutrition services for Interior Health East

“We’re doing our due diligence to try and reduce costs that are associated to health care. It’s important to be cognizant of waste as well,” she says. “I hate things going in the garbage.”

Throughout July, August and September, IH conducted a “plate waste” audit that found almost 75 per cent of these to-be-eliminated items were going in the garbage costing Interior Health East’s acute care $50,000 annually.

Items appearing on trays cannot be saved because of FoodSafe and infection control.

“It has to go in the garbage,” Altenhoff says.

It may seem a small packet of salt is the least of the health authority’s budgetary worries but Altenhoff explains in a year, for the thousands of people going through the hospital, providing that salt and pepper adds up to $3,000 to $5,000. Tea — between the bags and cup lids — adds up to $22,000.

“Because we’re serving such a mass amount of people it adds up,” she says.

IH is looking at a new way of providing these items via a checklist for “patients who actually want them,” says Altenhoff.

“Tea was a standard but a lot people don’t like tea, they like coffee… This way we will identify what their likes and dislikes are more upfront with the patients.”

IH is also addressing other menu items that are commonly wasted because most people don’t like them or they don’t suit a community’s ethnic base.

“We’ve identified, ‘this product definitely doesn’t go over, let’s look and make the changes to the menu,’” Altenhoff says. “We try to address the needs of the patient instead of setting up a menu that’s not popular… We want to make changes so that our patients are best served and getting the food they want instead of seeing it go in the garbage.”

During this time of transitioning to eliminate waste, IH is also looking at making all meals similar to breakfast served bulk-style from a cart taken around to floors. Patients request items such as hot cereal, toast, omelet or yoghurt, juice from a selective menu the day before service. On the initial admission day a standard meal is given.

Lunch and dinner have been traditionally assembled on trays based on diet specifications. Standard items are put on.

“We in health care need to address how much food goes in the garbage. We need to reduce that, what goes into our landfills and be part of the green effort as well,” says Altenhoff.

These changes in food service are taking place over the next couple weeks leading up to November 1. Interior Health East includes Grand Forks to Golden and all points in between to the Alberta border.

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