Food service changes coming to new hospital

With a new hospital on the way there will come new changes

With a new, larger hospital on its way, there will obviously be new and larger ways of doing things.

That statement is, in some ways, no more true than when talking about food services.

The most noticeable change for patients will likely be the fact that they will now be brought a menu and have their order taken verbally, much like they would if they were at a restaurant, instead of just being told what they get for dinner.

The new food delivery model, appropriately enough, is being called the “Spoken Menu Model.”

Corporate director of Island Health’s General Support Services, Murray Hutchison, says there could be as many as 10 different entree options on a patient’s menu at any given meal.

“Compared to what we do today, where we really only provide the offering of the day and one other ‘default’ kind of offering – it’s not a lot of choice – we see this as a significant step forward,” Hutchison says.

Two factors have made this change possible, Hutchison says: improved technology enabling the digital transfer of information more efficiently throughout the building and the construction of a kitchen facility within the hospital that was designed with a broader and more diverse food service system in mind.

“The new hospitals, both in Campbell River and Comox, present a real opportunity to us in presenting this new model,” agrees Island Health director of food services, Lynn Nabata. “Moving to this new selective menu model has huge advantages in terms of things like patient autonomy.

“When patients enter a hospital, they are already losing the ability to make a lot of their own decisions, but at least they’ll be able to decide what they have for lunch or dinner, now.”

They won’t have complete freedom to choose whatever they want, obviously, if they have dietary restrictions due to their health or healing requirements.

To a large extent, the reason the patient has been admitted or what they are being treated for will determine what options they get.

“For example, as a really easy one,” Nabata says, “if a person has diabetes, they would get the diabetes menu, but if a person has no dietary or medical restrictions, they would get what we call the general menu.”

Those menus will be set by medical professionals and nutritionists who will know the dietary needs of patients so that the food on offer is beneficial to recovery and, well, people’s health.

The other big difference that may not be as visible, but is certainly as important, is that due to the new kitchen facilities, “we will now be cooking the majority of the food on-site,” Nabata says.

Hutchison says the aspect of having a choice of meals, along with the fact that they will be cooking the majority of the food on-site, they think they will see patient satisfaction go up “considerably.”

In terms of retail food service that will be available to patients and visitors within the new hospital – which is a completely separate animal from the patient-food-delivery model – Hutchison says they are just starting to look at that now.

They have opened a Request For Proposals (RFP) on looking for someone to manage that aspect of food services, Hutchison says, which is completely separate from their patient-care food services.

“What we’re looking for is an experienced and qualified service provider to come in and provide retail food in a small bistro that would be centrally located in the facilities,” Hutchison says.

That could be a chain-style provider like Tim Hortons, Starbucks or Subway – which is the situation in some facilities across Island Health already – but won’t necessarily be a chain-type business.

“Those are the types of retailers that we have at some of our sites, and those would be the types of companies who would normally respond to an RFP like this, but we’ve really opened it up to the possibility that the local community could respond to the RFP. Let’s say you have a very successful restaurant downtown and they are seeing this as having a sort of extension or ‘kiosk’ of their operation at the hospital. It opens it up to that possibility, as well.”

Hutchison says they have even seen community foundations and organizations respond to RFPs like this one for retail food service.

“We really want a solution that fits each community,” he says, which also means it may not be the same solution for both the Campbell River and Comox Valley sites.

That RFP closes closes Dec. 12, at which point Island Health will chose a preferred provider and enter into what they hope will be at least a “medium-term” contract of five years to add a level of stability and consistency to the retail side of things.

So while the type of coffee shop or bistro that will be in the new Campbell River Hospital hasn’t been determined, it’s safe to say that food service in general will look a lot different in the new hospital than it does in the current one.