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Quality of food at TCH – has to be seen to be believed

By 15 April 2012 65

hospital food

I recently spent over a week in TCH. The care was great I cannot fault any of the Drs or nursing staff who did an outstanding job. (apart from one young,  female anaesthetic registrar who was so incredibly rude, banging the side of my bed and demanding I listen to her, much to the horror of surrounding staff- little attitude adjustment needed there)

But the food, OMG! The food was so bad that when I finally felt like eating after a week and disocvered how bad it was I had family and friends bring in something. One night I ordered spinach gnocci, can’t stuff that up I thought. Wrong. It arrived and I opened the lid to find a square of glutinous green stuff sitting on the plate. It was so bad I started laughing and then took a photo and sent it to friends and family. My advice to anyone who will be in for more than day surgery, line up your family and friends to do food runs for you.

I did start to wonder though if the inmates at AMC are catered by the same company or if they actually have proper food?

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65 Responses to Quality of food at TCH – has to be seen to be believed
#31
breda10:13 pm, 15 Apr 12

Hospital food is pretty awful – I have had airline food that is better. But, to put it in perspective, it would cost a lot of money to improve it substantially. For a start, hospital buildings are large – lots of floors, lots of corridors. There is usually one kitchen, which can’t help being a long way away from many patients.

Secondly, there are a bunch of ever changing dietary requirements for patients. On any given day, there are patients who can or cannot eat this or that, whether for medical reasons, or because of allergies, and things like vegetarianism, allergies and religious requirements. The next day, the mix will be different.

It is easy to criticise, but it is a bit like the famous ‘rubber chicken’ at functions. It happens because it is expensive and wasteful to try to cater for every individual’s preferences, so we get the lowest (and cheapest) common denominator.

By all means, complain about the food if it is horrible. But it is worth recognising that catering for a hospital where you can’t charge $25 for a terrible club sandwich and chips – usually delivered lukewarm – like hotels do has inbuilt limitations.

#32
FioBla1:04 am, 16 Apr 12

Seem to be a flux of food-related posts. Brodburger or Jamie Oliver would do a better job, and could cater for $3.33 per head. (This paragraph is a joke by the way).

In some Singapore hospitals, the food trolleys are automated between the kitchen and the wards. The trolleys run along tracks, go up and down lifts automatically. Quite amazing when I saw it 10 years ago. Although the trays still need to be brought (by human) from the trolley to the patient. Automation seems to be big over there.

#33
thegirl7:12 am, 16 Apr 12

After having spent 7 nights at TCH last month I agree with the sentiment about the food. It is really terrible (and noticeably worse than John James where I also recently stayed for the birth of my children). But I agree with other posters who have commented on the difficulty of having a menu that has to cater for unwell people and the logistics of getting a huge number of meals out all at the one time – you can’t be expecing gourmet meals. And I can cope with a week of bad food. The most important thing was the amazing care I received and that I got better.
Having said that, in addition to those 7 nights at TCH I was flown to St Vincents in Sydney & was there for a couple of nights (in the public part) and the food was so much better there with a far more efficient ordering system.

#34
mickey8:58 am, 16 Apr 12

Very recently, the mrs was admitted to the john james maternity unit for a week. The food she was served was first rate, looked like it was from a fine dining restaurant. It was consistently good for the whole time.

#35
Thumper9:06 am, 16 Apr 12

It’s a hospital, not a restaurant.

The food is edible and keeps you alive.

I see no problem.

#36
Bennop9:50 am, 16 Apr 12

Whilst there are not doubt more amusing examples, I think this complaint could be the quintessential example of #firstworldproblems.

#37
p110:10 am, 16 Apr 12

cross said :

Lived in Canberra for 40 years and never heard these…

Ahhh, there is your problem, 40 years ago TCH was Woden Valley Hospital (assuming it was built then), and the gaol didn’t exit.

Of course, the AMC *has* had rather a lot of press over the last 5 years or so, and the Hospital only adopted the “TCH” branding about 10 years ago…

#38
trevar10:21 am, 16 Apr 12

I don’t think the complaint in the OP really related to personal preferences or even dietary requirements; it is about whether the food is in any way nourishing. If it is not (and this seems to be the case, judging by the image above), wouldn’t it be more efficient to stop providing food altogether?

The OP’s comment about the meals at the AMC is most interesting. Most inmates have a grocery allowance and prepare their own meals. Inmates in the higher security areas are catered for by chefs and their apprentices (many of whom are also inmates), with meals prepared in the vicinity of the service area. So invariably, all food service at the AMC is better than that at TCH, and the TCH could learn a lot by looking into the AMC’s practices.

In the past, hospitals didn’t provide food for patients; it was the responsibility of patient’s families to feed them if they were too incapacitated to feed themselves. In my opinion, this is probably a better arrangement than what we have presently. A lot of money is being wasted on substances often referred to as ‘food’, which must be sent to landfill as there is no other use for it. Why not simply provide small kitchens on wards for the use of patients and their families?

There is, no doubt, a lot of space occupied by kitchens that don’t produce nourishing food, and this space could be reclaimed and used for wards, compensating for the small kitchens you place on every ward. I’ve even seen spaces used for the distribution of ‘meals’ on many hospital wards; these could be reclaimed and used for food preparation by patients and their families, so the ward needn’t shrink to accommodate a kitchen.

Even with this arrangement, there would be no need for patients’ families to make the provision; there are plenty of grocery delivery services now, so patients can organise their needs from their bed.

I honestly don’t think we’d lose anything by simply removing food service from our hospitals altogether, and making it the responsibility of the patient to arrange their own meals while hospital staff get on with the business of medicine.

#39
Bennop10:29 am, 16 Apr 12

trevar said :

I don’t think the complaint in the OP really related to personal preferences or even dietary requirements; it is about whether the food is in any way nourishing. If it is not (and this seems to be the case, judging by the image above), wouldn’t it be more efficient to stop providing food altogether?

The OP’s comment about the meals at the AMC is most interesting. Most inmates have a grocery allowance and prepare their own meals. Inmates in the higher security areas are catered for by chefs and their apprentices (many of whom are also inmates), with meals prepared in the vicinity of the service area. So invariably, all food service at the AMC is better than that at TCH, and the TCH could learn a lot by looking into the AMC’s practices.

In the past, hospitals didn’t provide food for patients; it was the responsibility of patient’s families to feed them if they were too incapacitated to feed themselves. In my opinion, this is probably a better arrangement than what we have presently. A lot of money is being wasted on substances often referred to as ‘food’, which must be sent to landfill as there is no other use for it. Why not simply provide small kitchens on wards for the use of patients and their families?

There is, no doubt, a lot of space occupied by kitchens that don’t produce nourishing food, and this space could be reclaimed and used for wards, compensating for the small kitchens you place on every ward. I’ve even seen spaces used for the distribution of ‘meals’ on many hospital wards; these could be reclaimed and used for food preparation by patients and their families, so the ward needn’t shrink to accommodate a kitchen.

Even with this arrangement, there would be no need for patients’ families to make the provision; there are plenty of grocery delivery services now, so patients can organise their needs from their bed.

I honestly don’t think we’d lose anything by simply removing food service from our hospitals altogether, and making it the responsibility of the patient to arrange their own meals while hospital staff get on with the business of medicine.

This is all good and fine for those who have support networks who are prepared to do bring or prepare food for them, which many people do not.

#40
c_c10:35 am, 16 Apr 12

breda said :

Hospital food is pretty awful – I have had airline food that is better.

Why do people complain about airline food so much? Admittedly I’ve not had it often, but certainly when I did eat it I was left wondering what all the fuss was about. No joke, the “gourmet roll” on an economy flight from Canberra to Melbourne on QANTAS was better than a lot you’d find in proper cafes and coffee shops who charge a premium for it.

Anyway the solution to bad hospital food is quite simple. Before admission, go to an engraver and have one of those little plastic signs made that the hospital puts above your bed saying “Nil by Mouth.” If enough patents start bringing in their own signs, they may get a hint.

#41
tidalik10:53 am, 16 Apr 12

Thumper said :

It’s a hospital, not a restaurant.

The food is edible and keeps you alive.

I see no problem.

I stayed at the Canberra Hospital last year for four nights. The food is not edible.

#42
nescius11:03 am, 16 Apr 12

My Dad was at TCH for many months when he had cancer, after the first meal he had there we made sure that he had home cooked meals for every meal, I wouldn’t feed the crap they served up to him to my dog. The nutritionist told us what he needed to eat, so we made sure he got it (there is no connection between the nutritionists and the food providers at TCH).

#43
p111:57 am, 16 Apr 12

Thumper said :

The food is edible and keeps you alive.

Not if you don’t eat it.

#44
trevar12:16 pm, 16 Apr 12

Bennop said :

This is all good and fine for those who have support networks who are prepared to do bring or prepare food for them, which many people do not.

Rubbish. There’s nothing to stop the unsupported from ordering a delivery from Colesworths or a take away. That’s just as easy as ticking the boxes on the form they give you at the hospital.

At any rate, this approach doesn’t really require the hospital to change anything, which means the unsupported can make do with what they’re getting if they can’t… well I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t be able to do one of those things. But regardless, while the hospital could save money by not bothering, it could just be an opt-in system instead of an opt out, and that might reduce the waste.

My better half was in for three days last year, and to avoid her getting sicker by eating the hospital’s food, we set up a temporary routine; each evening I’d feed the offspring, then we’d all take a plate into the hospital along with something for breakfast the following morning. I work near TCH, so I made arrangements for a long lunch and delivered her lunch fresh too. The nurses were very supportive, and happy to run the plate to a microwave when needed, and they also informed the kitchen not to waste a meal by bringing it.

The fact is we’ve already got the solution to the problem in the OP, and it requires no change on the part of the hospital to implement it.

#45
astrojax12:53 pm, 16 Apr 12

trevar said :

Bennop said :

This is all good and fine for those who have support networks who are prepared to do bring or prepare food for them, which many people do not.

Rubbish. There’s nothing to stop the unsupported from ordering a delivery from Colesworths or a take away. That’s just as easy as ticking the boxes on the form they give you at the hospital.

At any rate, this approach doesn’t really require the hospital to change anything, which means the unsupported can make do with what they’re getting if they can’t… well I can’t think of a reason why you wouldn’t be able to do one of those things. But regardless, while the hospital could save money by not bothering, it could just be an opt-in system instead of an opt out, and that might reduce the waste.

My better half was in for three days last year, and to avoid her getting sicker by eating the hospital’s food, we set up a temporary routine; each evening I’d feed the offspring, then we’d all take a plate into the hospital along with something for breakfast the following morning. I work near TCH, so I made arrangements for a long lunch and delivered her lunch fresh too. The nurses were very supportive, and happy to run the plate to a microwave when needed, and they also informed the kitchen not to waste a meal by bringing it.

The fact is we’ve already got the solution to the problem in the OP, and it requires no change on the part of the hospital to implement it.

so you critique the post decrying the plight of the unsupported then detail the fairly intense support you were able to be for your loved one… what’s to stop them ordering from supermarket duopoly? well, mebbe one, incapacitation to then prepare a meal from it, and two, lack of facilities to store and prepare it… they’re in hospital ’cause they’re sick; i should think the system can provide appropriate nourishment for the ill as a core component of the treatment of their patients. [not to comment on the op on this - the food may or may not be 'nourishing', as opposed to 'appealing']

#46
Bennop1:18 pm, 16 Apr 12

trevar said :

Bennop said :

This is all good and fine for those who have support networks who are prepared to do bring or prepare food for them, which many people do not.

Rubbish. There’s nothing to stop the unsupported from ordering a delivery from Colesworths or a take away. That’s just as easy as ticking the boxes on the form they give you at the hospital..

You are a crack up. Nothing to stop them.from ticking a box maybe. But then what…they receive a hamper from woolworths and are required to cut, broil, stew and serve their meal, in between throwing up, paralysis, open fracture wound treatment and specialist consultations? Dude.

#47
Watson1:20 pm, 16 Apr 12

p1 said :

Thumper said :

The food is edible and keeps you alive.

Not if you don’t eat it.

Touche!

And those coming here with the old and tired “don’t whinge about a free service” argument, the staff still get paid and it is no excuse for them doing such a mediocre job. Especially as good nutrition could arguably be an important part of some patients’ recovery, if not for the physical influence, then for the mental. Getting really bad food put in front of you every day is downright depressing. As if being in hospital isn’t depressing enough.

#48
VYBerlinaV8_is_back1:44 pm, 16 Apr 12

Anyone else remember when KFC delivered? It’s a perfect solution!

#49
thumper1091:58 pm, 16 Apr 12

mezza76 said :

Lol. I have seen it. It doesn’t look great. But you’ve got to understand that hospitals are not hotels. Medicare doesnt provide for all proceduresv& evn then it’s not 100% of the cost. The bulk of the funds are made up of state & territories where they have the worst revenue. Eg. QLD spends about $8bn per year on health, they get about $5bn of GST… Leaving the rest to be made up from transfer duties & the like. Then they have to pay for schools, police, roads, etc. I assume that the ACT is in a similar situation & in a worst position given the small amount of taxes generated here.

Health costs are rising at about 9-10% a year. At current rates, states & territories have about 30 yrs before health costs take up the entire budget. The food is the least of my concerns…

Then maybe next time some stupid politician offers a tax cut for votes, they should be told “We’d rather have a better health service.”

Just a thought.

#50
mezza762:32 pm, 16 Apr 12

thumper109 said :

mezza76 said :

Lol. I have seen it. It doesn’t look great. But you’ve got to understand that hospitals are not hotels. Medicare doesnt provide for all proceduresv& evn then it’s not 100% of the cost. The bulk of the funds are made up of state & territories where they have the worst revenue. Eg. QLD spends about $8bn per year on health, they get about $5bn of GST… Leaving the rest to be made up from transfer duties & the like. Then they have to pay for schools, police, roads, etc. I assume that the ACT is in a similar situation & in a worst position given the small amount of taxes generated here.

Health costs are rising at about 9-10% a year. At current rates, states & territories have about 30 yrs before health costs take up the entire budget. The food is the least of my concerns…

Then maybe next time some stupid politician offers a tax cut for votes, they should be told “We’d rather have a better health service.”

Just a thought.

Sadly, I don’t like your chances.

As per @Weston above – there is a view that it’s all part of the service. It isn’t. It is a free taxpayer paid meal provided in order to keep you alive. I could well imagine the uproar if the Government provided a wonderful 3 course meal for all those CAT 5 patients, including junkies, drunks, and otherwise people who are admitted overnight. The Canberra Times would have a field day at the government ‘excess’.

Here’s a thought? Maybe they TCH should charge people separately for hospital meals (im sure they could then outsource this to a catering company who could make some money)? How would people like that? The Medicare Act only provides for free medical care, not free meals.

As a society we’ve got 3 options:
* Pay more tax
* Have a user pays system / user chargers
* Have less service

So what is it?

#51
quewastaken2:40 pm, 16 Apr 12

Thumper said :

It’s a hospital, not a restaurant.

The food is edible and keeps you alive.

I see no problem.

I was in TCH last year for a throat operation. Upon reading my chart (that said something along the lines of soft foods only) I was given a stale sandwich, warm juice and and apple. I wouldn’t have complained if I had a broken leg or something that didn’t effect my ability to eat but I was really hungry and couldn’t eat anything supplied to me. I made this known to the nurse on duty though a series of grunts and whines which got me a pad and pen to write on, when a new meal was brought back it was a different stale sandwich and warm juice. The juice was painful but delicious.

When I was visited by a family member an hour or so later and they found out I had been given two meals I couldn’t eat they went and found a head nurse and in about 2 minutes flat I had some lovely mush to eat.

Moral of the story: Hospital food sucks but nothing will ever change, next time I go in I’ll be planning in advance outside sources of food

#52
mendoza2:54 pm, 16 Apr 12

#firstworldproblems

#53
Teglian2:59 pm, 16 Apr 12

I was there about 5 years ago giving birth. Food was terrible then too. One night dinner was a slice ofprocessed ham, about 6 pineapple pieces (as in fruit salad size) & a quater cup of mash. Of course the cafe was closed. I plan on getting out ASAP for the next birth, I don’t mind saving them moneyon food.

#54
astrojax3:55 pm, 16 Apr 12

Teglian said :

I was there about 5 years ago giving birth. Food was terrible then too. One night dinner was a slice ofprocessed ham, about 6 pineapple pieces (as in fruit salad size) & a quater cup of mash. Of course the cafe was closed. I plan on getting out ASAP for the next birth, I don’t mind saving them moneyon food.

or go to queanbeyan for birthing – excellent midwife-driven maternity suite, reasonable food (and close enough to woolies for dad to walk over and get something on which to snack) and an accredited baby-friendly hospital where you can stay in a single room with dad for a few nights… quangers gets some things very right.

#55
housebound4:21 pm, 16 Apr 12

The food at TCH used to be quite good. Yeah, it was bland, but it was nutritious and edible.

Things changed in about 2003 (taking the date from various hospital visits). This was about the time TCH got a new administrator and the kitchen was closed and food prep outsourced to (from memory) Goulburn prison.

So Iw oudl say it should be possible to deliver half decent food (edible but bland) at a decent price since they could do it only a decade ago.

#56
Ben_Dover5:00 pm, 16 Apr 12

Having seen the image, my dog now wants to know who has been following him about with a plate.

#57
Bramina6:12 pm, 16 Apr 12

housebound said :

The food at TCH used to be quite good. Yeah, it was bland, but it was nutritious and edible.

Things changed in about 2003 (taking the date from various hospital visits). This was about the time TCH got a new administrator and the kitchen was closed and food prep outsourced to (from memory) Goulburn prison.

So Iw oudl say it should be possible to deliver half decent food (edible but bland) at a decent price since they could do it only a decade ago.

The problem is with contractors, or more specifically the incentives in the contract.

The hospital probably pays per meal. Thus the contractor doesn’t care how good the meals are, they get paid anyway.

Perhaps a better system would be to pay them based on meals ordered, or have two kitchens competing against each other.

Maybe there is a business opportunity for someone to start delivering food to hospitals.

#58
milkman7:16 pm, 16 Apr 12

astrojax said :

Teglian said :

I was there about 5 years ago giving birth. Food was terrible then too. One night dinner was a slice ofprocessed ham, about 6 pineapple pieces (as in fruit salad size) & a quater cup of mash. Of course the cafe was closed. I plan on getting out ASAP for the next birth, I don’t mind saving them moneyon food.

or go to queanbeyan for birthing – excellent midwife-driven maternity suite, reasonable food (and close enough to woolies for dad to walk over and get something on which to snack) and an accredited baby-friendly hospital where you can stay in a single room with dad for a few nights… quangers gets some things very right.

+1. We used quangers hospital and it was great. Plenty of space, a room to ourselves, heaps of staff, midwives who knew what they were doing and no pressure to leave.

#59
astrojax12:21 pm, 17 Apr 12

milkman said :

astrojax said :

Teglian said :

I was there about 5 years ago giving birth. Food was terrible then too. One night dinner was a slice ofprocessed ham, about 6 pineapple pieces (as in fruit salad size) & a quater cup of mash. Of course the cafe was closed. I plan on getting out ASAP for the next birth, I don’t mind saving them moneyon food.

or go to queanbeyan for birthing – excellent midwife-driven maternity suite, reasonable food (and close enough to woolies for dad to walk over and get something on which to snack) and an accredited baby-friendly hospital where you can stay in a single room with dad for a few nights… quangers gets some things very right.

+1. We used quangers hospital and it was great. Plenty of space, a room to ourselves, heaps of staff, midwives who knew what they were doing and no pressure to leave.

and we’ll be back in the next few weeks, sometime… :)

#60
p112:34 pm, 17 Apr 12

milkman said :

astrojax said :

Teglian said :

I was there about 5 years ago giving birth. Food was terrible then too. One night dinner was a slice ofprocessed ham, about 6 pineapple pieces (as in fruit salad size) & a quater cup of mash. Of course the cafe was closed. I plan on getting out ASAP for the next birth, I don’t mind saving them moneyon food.

or go to queanbeyan for birthing – excellent midwife-driven maternity suite, reasonable food (and close enough to woolies for dad to walk over and get something on which to snack) and an accredited baby-friendly hospital where you can stay in a single room with dad for a few nights… quangers gets some things very right.

+1. We used quangers hospital and it was great. Plenty of space, a room to ourselves, heaps of staff, midwives who knew what they were doing and no pressure to leave.

We used the CATCH program through TCH. The same midwife visited us at home before and after the birth, and delivered the baby. There was no pressure to leave, in fact we talked them into letting us go home…

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