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.