Hospital Food

It’s been nearly two years since my friend Bear died. The hospital he was in, VGH in Vancouver, through unhygienic procedures infected him with C difficile. (He’s not the only person I know who received infections in the hospital: I know of two others who luckily didn’t lose their lives.) I’ve written about this before but I may not have gone into the quality of the food.

Part of the healing process for any person involves several factors. One is getting rid of the infection/disease or removing /fixing the problem. However mental health also plays a big part in healing. If a person is depressed or of a negative frame it can slow or even halt healing. Having experienced depression in the past I know that depression can even bring on problems. I ended up with elbow joint pain that no amount of therapy could fix. It went away with the anti-depressants.

That’s two factors: medical help and mental health. The third and important aspect is having a healthy body that has all the resources for mending. That means having adequate red blood cells, vitamins, nutrition, etc. I’m not a medical expert and there are many doctors that could tell you the specifics, however any deficiency can hinder health. So that third aspect of healing is having the proper nutrition to bring about a full return to health.

Malnutrition in any of a host of vitamins and nutrients can cause everything from deformity to death. It is a serious issue. My friend had several factors against him in regards to eating. They included being a celiac as well as a picky eater, and of course after C difficile took his intestines and shut down his kidneys, food just didn’t taste right.

I often showed up around his dinner time and his plate would include two stale pieces of rice bread, one incredibly thin piece of luncheon meat, maybe a pat of butter or margarine, sometimes one boiled egg, sometimes broccoli boiled to grey, and very little else. His dinners often consisted of a few chicken drumsticks (he was 6’7″) and maybe one small scoop of potatoes. I never tasted the food but his wife on one occasion did when he didn’t feel like eating and her report was that it was disgusting.

On other patients’ plates, in a healthier state, I would see meat, potatoes and gravy and very little resembling vegetables. Luncheon meat has little to no nutrient value and vegetables cooked to mush do not retain much that’s worthwhile either. One slice of luncheon meat hardly makes up a person’s daily intake of protein. Unpalatable meals are not a way to get a person’s appetite back, which is often subdued after a surgery. It is also the worst thing to do to a person whose system has been traumatized by illness or invasive techniques.

Between the food and the infection and resultant problems it’s no wonder that my friend died. If it wasn’t for his wife showing up everyday with home-cooked meals he probably would have died a lot sooner. It’s sad and criminal that someone has to bring in food to try and heal a patient. Many people stuck in the hospital don’t have that luxury of people bringing them good food or the energy to complain, not that it does much good anyways.

In BC at least, premier Gordon Campbell illegally tore up the contracts of union workers in hospitals. They lost their jobs and as the courts looked at the issue for four years, Campbell had the Fraser Health Authority hire the lowest bidders. Cheapest is not always best. Eventually it was found that Campbell’s government was in the wrong but not after it was too late. The damage was done and things like cleaning rooms contaminated with biohazardous waste or feeding people back to health were lost.

It’s too bad Campbell felt it was worth a few lives to save a few bucks and use a dishonorable way of getting rid of workers. It’s too bad the hospitals are so dirty now many people fear having to go in. I know I do and many of my friends do. It’s too bad the hospitals have forgotten one of the principles of health, a good and well-balanced diet. I would like to see a world where truly human life comes first and that even the sacrifice of a few should matter.

If you’re in an area where the hospitals are comprimising someone’s health with terrible food, complain and complain loudly. Involve the media, write your legislative members, blog, tell friends, do what you can so that another life need not be wasted because of such indifference. This goes of course, not just about food but about the cleanliness of hospitals too. It’s time to have people heal healthily and quickly and that involves good food.

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