After receiving a complaint about terrible food from the wife of a former patient, the managers and CEO of the Ottawa General Hospital spent a week eating hospital food. They hated it as much as the patient did, so they did something about it.
“Thank you for raising your concerns with me,” CEO Jack Kitts wrote back. “Our management team has recently eaten hospital food for a week and agrees with your observation that we need to improve the presentation and taste.”
When the letter-writer, Gillian Wallace, had herself been in hospital, the food was so bad that her doctor recommended against it, she told the Ottawa Citizen. “Don’t eat that shit,” said the doctor. “Get your husband to bring you some food.”
Kevin Peters, director of food services at Ottawa General, says that despite being unpalatable, the food was at least still nutritious. But he and his team are now improving things, no easy task when you prepare one million meals a year, for one thousand patients every day, many of whom have specific dietary requirements.
The new menu, says the Ottawa Citizen’s Elisabeth Payne, will include more salads, quinoa, fresh sandwiches, and more ethnic foods. Out go stew-type dishes, ladled onto plates from a huge cauldron only to congeal on their way to the patients. And in future, says Peters, patients might be able to choose their own meals, even being able to select their breakfast from a cart. Mealtimes, too, may be become more flexible. “We know patients don’t usually eat at 8 a.m., noon, and 4 p.m.,” said Peters.
This story makes one wonder how many other services might be improved if only the bosses were forced to use them. The tech sector has a term for making its employees use their own products—”eating your own dog food.” Perhaps, though, that’s not the best term to use for Ottawa General Hospital’s experience.
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