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No more ‘luxury’ food for May Pen Hospital patients

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As of this month, a standard patient diet will be implemented at the the May Pen Hospital in an effort to reduce a $2.5 million food bill that the hospital racks up on average each month.

Currently, patients at the hospital are served three meals per day, consisting primarily of rice, chicken, fish, fried dumplings, yam, potato, banana, and salt fish. But according to the Chief Executive Officer of the hospital, Andrade Sinclair, some of these items are ‘luxury food’.

“The new hospital diet will be coming on stream effective February. We are going to put that in place so that we can cut back on waste. Our diet will be the prescribed hospital food for patients. Not general food that people get at home that I see is being served.”

Sinclair, who made the revelation in an exclusive interview with the J amaica Observer last month, said that about $450 is allotted for each patient per meal each day, but explained that the items, and how the meals are prepared, come at a cost not only to the hospital, but also to the health of the patients.

“I see where we are overspending and we are already in need of resources. We are buying things that we should not be buying and we will be cutting them out, and leaning toward nutritional meals for the patients.”

Sinclair specified that items such as rice, salt fish and fried dumplings will be discontinued.

“It’s a lot of luxury. All this oil being used, and oil is expensive and is not good for patient in any case. You want to give them what is good for them, so we’ll be substituting those with yam, banana, and potato. And we give them fish and chicken and boil it. No more frying.”

He said that especially when it comes to ‘hard food’ such as yam, boiled and fried dumplings, because of how it is prepared, a lot of it ends up wasted because patients cannot handle it.

“Most of them, they don’t even have teeth or dentures and we giving them food that they can’t even manage mechanically, so it ends up being wasted. We are basically throwing away money.

“They get the food, but they can’t help themselves, and we don’t have adequate staff to help with feeding them as we would like. So we’re going to discontinue some items, while changing the food preparation. So they will get like mashed potatoes, or diced or crushed banana.”

Sinclair explained that consultations have been made with a resident dietician who will stipulate meals based on kilogrammes per serving. “In other words,” he said, “the food will be measured and it will be geared according to a patient’s illness.

“So you boil it or you bake it, and you give them the right portion for their weight to make sure they get a balanced meal. That is how it is done in the developed world.”

Admitting that the new diet may not be as tasty as what Jamaicans are accustomed to, Sinclair explained that this is a cultural issue that the hospital will have to change in order to cut back on overspending on food.

“This should be the norm, but because of culture we are not accustomed to a certain food preparation. But when you come to a hospital you have to understand it’s not a culture thing, it’s health care.

“You have patients coming in the hospital expecting the same type of food that they get when they are at home. A hospital’s purpose is not a hotel, and people have to understand that.

“You’re going to hardly taste any salt in there or sweetness, or what you would consider nice and delicious. Hospital food is not something that you going to say it taste nice, because you talking about boil and bake, crushed, mashed potato. Not fry dumpling, or yam and salt fish and all those things.”

The hospital CEO further noted that the hospital has been housing 13 persons who are no longer in need of care, but who have been abandoned at the hospital by relatives, and are essentially living there. This he said, puts even more strain on the hospital’s ability to feed everyone.

“We have 170 beds in total, and all of them are occupied. Sometimes we have to be putting patients in lounge chairs or there is nowhere to put them, and it’s costing us to feed them.”

He explained that the average length of stay for patients at the hospital is 10 to 15 days, which exceeds the healthcare industry average of four to five days.

“You have people in here from 2016 and 2017. It (length of stay) has gone up since December. Most of them, their conditions are improved. Some of them are still bedridden; those that are ambulatory, we try to place them in an infirmary. Sometimes the infirmary is filled, so we have to wait until there is a space. Sometimes we have to wait for somebody to die in order to get a space.”

He also said that before December last year, there were three children, one of them eight years old, who had been living at the hospital since birth.

“Thankfully, all the children that were here were transferred out in December. They are now in the care of the State,” he revealed.

The Ministry of Health has a diet manual which containes the normal and therapeutic diets used in all State-run hospitals.

Sinclair, however, said that while he cannot speak for what is practised in other hospitals, he would advise other hospitals to implement better food preparation for patients.

“Right now we are going to be dealing with it the right way. We are going to try and beat the $450 per meal while at the same time providing the same or better quality of food. And it will be easier to consume, whereas it is being wasted now, so it is no value to the patient.”

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