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Hospital “Food”…..

Having had the misfortune recently of becoming ill, I spent a few days in Hospital. During that time, I was an eye witness to the absurdity of what passes as “Hospital Food” in Ireland.

Before I express my opinions, let me say that the medical care I received was second to none, and every member of staff could not do enough for the patients.

Lets start with bread.  Toast seems to be the “cure all” or light eating option to ease a patient back on to solid foods after fasting, surgeries, etc.  That’s fine, but not when it is the sliced pan variety.  Case in point, if you take a slice of this bread and squeeze it in your hand, it stays that way.  It is  full of preservatives, and has little, if any, or no nutritional value.  On balance, you could opt for a locally made brown bread, but you had to ask for it.

You have to choose your meals a day in advance, and when read out to the patient, they seem fine.  Meats (lamb, or beef), fish (salmon, cod, sole), but when they actually arrive on your meal tray, they are dried up, and have lost their appeal, both aesthetically and nutritionally.

The hospital breakfast was no better.  Yet again, the ubiquitous toast with marmalade in plastic tubs made an appearance, along with packet cereal… Corn flakes, Rice Krispies, Special K, no cooked hot items, that was it.  

The reason for this is the cutbacks within the Health Service Executive (Irish Health System)  and the mothballing of many kitchens in hospitals, in favour of outsourcing catering services.  The food is cooked off-site, brought in and re-heated for serving to the patients.  

The catering staff in the hospital where I was a patient are the nicest women you could meet.  They try their best to find you something to suit, if possible, but this is not always the case, as they have to get the food out on time.

On the day I was due to go home, I had chosen Sole for dinner (which is served around midday).  I lifted the lid and found some rolled sole, dried up vegetables, and three large ice-cream scoops of what proported  to be mashed potato.  I picked at the Sole, it was watery and tasteless, and I despaired that a fish gave its life to end up like that!

There seems to be wheels within wheels at play here.  My “accommodation”  amounted to €933.00 per day.  I am wondering just how much of that enormous sum of money is allocated to food costs.  The Health Insurance companies charges are heavy enough, but they never seem to question bills sent out from hospitals, and all are paid, regardless.

How anyone can say that hospital food is even remotely palatable is beyond me.  I am sure Nutritionists will have other opinions, i.e. calorific value, etc., but if it is not even pleasing to the eye, how can you be expected to eat it?  I did notice that no fruit was offered, with the exception of melon, as a starter (!!) with dinner.

There had been a lot of talk on Twitter about this subject, and many had expressed the opinion that if they ever had to be in hospital again, they would have family members bring food from home.

I was in a general hospital, and know that some private hospitals are run differently. To cut food budgets in a hospital is just wrong, but when up against “the bean counters”, little will ever be done to change this.

Disclaimer:  The opinions expressed in the above post are my own, based on my observations and experiences.  Others may have different experiences, which I appreciate and accept. 

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20 thoughts on “Hospital “Food”…..

  1. I did that Colette – I had Ron bring me food when I was in recovery. I will say first though, after having lived and worked on three continents, the medical care I received was outstanding and worth every penny. Carlos Petrini founded the whole Slow Food movement based on the lack of decent nutritional value in food offered at a hospital in his hometown …. He fought hard to change a system that was trying to heal the sick and weak … And he believes that food – coupled with the right medical care has that power. I hope, now that you are home, you are making a full and fabulous recovery xx

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    1. Thank you for your comment Móna. I agree with you, that the medical care is always of the highest order, and worth, as you say, every penny. If I have to go back, for any reason, my Hubs will be providing meals for me, just like Ron. I will look up Carlos Petrini’s work, as it seems this man had the right idea. Food combined with medical care does heal, and heal quickly. I am taking things easy for the next few weeks, Móna, and enjoying being waited on at home 🙂 xx

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  2. God that sounds dire Colette, you’d think of all places where they want people to eat good nutritional food would be in hospital. Our health system really has a lot of problems that desperately need to be solved.

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    1. Thank you for your comment Eadaoin. The health system in general is in a very bad state, and how staff in hospitals work in those conditions is beyond me. Food is a huge issue, and our Minister for Health knows this full well. Will he change anything, I doubt it very much.

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  3. Agree with all your comments except the one about the toast you get after an operation. It is the most divine thing you will ever eat, the flavour tinged with gratitude that you got through it. I had an op in Germany and there was absolutely nothing to eat after, bec ause it happened in the evening. What I would have given for some dacent mulchy bread!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Derbhile. It is just my humble opinion that hunger is a great sauce, and after an operation etc., you will eat anything, and think it is the best thing ever 😉 All I ever wanted after any procedures I had was a drink of cold water 🙂

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    1. Thank so much for your comment, and sharing the link. It certainly does make fascinating reading. Having eaten in Neven Maguire’s restaurant, and enjoyed every morsel, it is shocking to think that the “food” offered up to patients costs more than his or Ross Lewis in Chapter One! He makes some very valid points, and I too would like to know how on earth they are €280M over-budget.

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  4. Colette, excellent post. As I’ve already told you we had a similar experience in a private hospital last October, where the food was appalling. There is a fight to be made, but unfortunately the people that are being served this horrendous food are generally in no position to fight. Enjoy your recovery time, and being waited on!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Margaret. That is indeed the case. The battle cannot be fought while in hospital. It’s the waste of money and the lack of it spent on food that is most shocking. Hope to see you both before the summer is over 🙂

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  5. Sorry to hear that you were in hospital Colette, I do hope you have recovered?
    What you write is so very true. However I am shocked at the €933 PER DAY cost. SHOCKED! Given that a nursing home (admittedly with more ‘stepped-down’ nursing care) costs €1000-1300 a week. They get their food sent in too, the specially prepared meals that is, that have to be pureed to a suitable consistency for stroke patients. It looks very presentable and edible.
    The other problem I have with hospital food is meal times for the elderly and infirm… those who can’t feed themselves or who’s swallow reflexes are bad. They either have it shoved down their necks or go hungry, staffing levels being that bad.

    Hospitals are no places for sick people!

    xx Jazzy

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    1. Hi Jazzy, that was back in June, but I’m fine now thanks 🙂 I reblogged this post after reading Bumbles of Rice’s experiences on her blog last night. ( http://bumblesofrice.com/2013/11/23/hospital-food-horrors/ ) I agree wholeheartedly with you regarding the costs. They are extraordinary, considering what you get in return. The medical costs, when they are listed on the receipt from the Insurance Company are minuscule compared with accommodation. As for your point about the elderly and infirm, we saw that for ourselves while visiting an elderly relative of my Husband. That was in 2005. Seems like practices have not changed, across the board, and are not likely to either.

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    1. Hi Conor, no problem, and thank you for sharing the link. What a great story, and a great memory of your late Father. What it does show, as you said, is that nothing has changed. The Chicken Liver Paté recipe looks and sounds delicious too.

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      1. Thanks Colette,
        The paté is worth doing. My advice is to try to stay out of hospital. Sadly, in the past number of months, I have had to do a lot of visiting and hanging around in hospitals. Everything you say about the food regime is born out by my own experiences.

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      2. I really hope I don’t have to go back, Conor, but if I do, I’ll be having food brought in. Food is and always has been an afterthought in our hospitals. A case of “that’s it, take it or leave it”. No one checks or asks now why a patient hasn’t eaten their meal, lack of interest or staffing, I suppose. The coffee/deli/sandwich places in most hospitals are expensive, for what they offer too.

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