Doctor's Review: Medicine on the Move

July 25, 2017

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Healed but malnourished

Is hospital food killing us?

Up to 60 percent of hospitalized adults, especially seniors in long-term care and those with cognitive difficulties, are malnourished.1 A recent evaluation of a Canadian hospital centre found that almost 80 percent of the children admitted had a moderate to severe nutritional risk, and 13 percent suffered from either acute or chronic malnutrition.2

When a patient is malnourished, the system becomes over burdened: the patients stay in the hospital longer, use more resources and cost the system up to 20 percent more than other patients.1

There’s no simple solution to the problem of malnutrition. The Nutrition Care in Canadian Hospitals study has produced a preliminary report, suggesting five ways to improve the situation.3

1) Develop a “culture of nutrition” where the staff understands that providing good nutrition is an integral part of helping patients get better.

2) Use tools that allow nutrition care to become more systematic. Collecting data like weight and food intake allows nutritional care to become more proactive. Implementing evidence-based protocols eliminate long periods of post-surgery fasting and ensure that appropriate food and supplements are available.

3) Create effective systems to improve the availability and production of food. The right food can then be delivered to each patient in a timely and acceptable manner and that patients will have the time and assistance to consume their meal.

4) Be sensitive to needs. This includes having menus and supplements available based on patient medical and cultural needs with the input of the patient and family members.

5) Making sure that the right person is doing the right job. There are many aspects to nutrition care. Most need staff specifically trained. Many problems could be avoided if the right staff member took the time to find out the patient’s food preferences or had adequate time to feed the patient.

The first step is for us to allocate more resources to patients’ nutritional care and food production. Currently, the average Canadian hospital is spending $8 a day to feed each patient three meals and two snacks daily.4 Could you do that at home, and still serve nutritious, tasty food?

This article was accurate when it was published. Please confirm rates and details directly with the companies in question.

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