A patient’s meal in an Irish hospital. (Photo: Alan Betson, The Irish Times)
While hospitals in the U.S. complain about how difficult it is to produce healthier diets for patients, at least two Irish hospitals have patients proclaiming their food to be “amazing”, “best I ever had”, “tasty” and “favorable”. And officials from the country’s Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) have noted, in observing presentations of meals such as boiled bacon, cabbage and vegetables being served up, that they were served “in an appetizing way,” according to a recent article in The Irish Times.
The HIQA officials told The Times that all the patients they interviewed spoke positively about their food – at Dublin’s Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital, the same city’s St Columcille Hospital, and at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny, where patients described their food as “excellent”, “beautiful” and told inspectors it “tasted well”.
The quality of hospital food has long been a bugbear of patients and successive ministers for health have promised to make improvements, the paper said.
HIQA was asked to carry out unannounced inspections of nutrition and hydration in public hospitals and has just published its first three reports – with surprising results.
At St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, Dublin, all patients who spoke with inspectors were complimentary and satisfied with the taste of the food and drinks provided. They were also satisfied with the choice offered, though the HIQA report describes the variety of choice on the hospital menus as limited.
The main meal was fish or meat, but staff said scrambled eggs or shepherd’s pie were available as alternatives.
Patients in St Columcille’s were more muted in their enthusiasm, describing their food as “tasty” and providing a “good choice”. All were satisfied with the temperature of the food and said their hot meals were hot on arrival.
HIQA says the hospital must ensure quality improvement efforts are in place to meet patients’ nutritional and hydration needs. Patients must be screened for the risk of malnutrition and training in the area should be further improved, taking account of patients’ own experiences.
HIQA says all patients have a right to safe, nutritious food and the provision of meals should be individualized and flexible.