Health care in Canada will never become what Canadians think it is until we get beyond the headline du jour and hold executives accountable for their continued failure to perform and reform.
This summer CBC radio had Toronto chef Joshna Maharaj appear on a regional phone-in show about the quality of hospital food. In 2011 Maharaj began working with the Scarborough Hospital for sick children to create more flavourful meals for patients. As news reports said at the time, “Out went bland prepackaged meals. In their place, meals using fresh basic ingredients, seasonal fruits and vegetables, and meats from local producers.”
Maharaj’s “changes got lots of media attention, support from foundations and seemed like a good idea. BUT, once she moved on, hospitals returned to their old habits and tasteless – and harmful – menus.”
About the time that Maharaj was working to bring flavourful and nutritious food to hospitals the CBC was reporting on studies which found a very real concern about malnutrition among hospitalized Canadians. Hospitals have dieticians on staff to speak with patients about proper nutrition, but, as was said, there is a disconnect between the advice and what’s available on a hospital tray.
Nova Scotia health care responded to these headlines by removing cream from their Tim Horton’s franchise operations and salt packages from patient trays and cafeteria tables, tho’ if you ask, salt can be produced. It’s sort of kept out of sight, like cigarettes.
We trust health care to know and do what’s best for patients in their care. But with a continued reliance on non-nutritious menus, which ensure malnourishment among those in long-term care, how can we trust? If they can’t get the basics of nutrition right, what else can’t they get right? How much patient decline is due to poor nutrition vs advancing disease?
It shouldn’t take headlines to create better care in our health system, but that seems how those in charge are prepared to work. Until the public demands, they ignore. Five years later, what has changed about hospital food?
Speaking of food – I continue to wonder why 160 white-collar workers at the Annapolis Valley District – Nova Scotia Health Authority offices in Kentville’s industrial park (15 Chipman) get subsidized lunches and two snacks a day trucked to them? How many other government workers enjoy this benefit? Could this become a new bargaining chip in union contracts? There is a push on to turn Valley Regional Hospital’s cafeteria into a profit centre, so is there a similar push to turn this executive perk into a money-maker for the health authority? Since Janet Knox has moved from Kentville to oversee the province’s health system is this a perk that has been expanded to all local health authorities? If not, the white collar workers across the province probably wonder why not?