29 August 2008

Food, Glorious Food!

I've always thought "portly" to be a strange word. Portly, to my (admittedly tangential) mind, has mobility-like connotations. Perhaps influenced by the Latin for door/gate? And with mobility, comes litheness & leanness - most certainly not :

Dictionary.com - rather heavy or fat; stout; corpulent.
Then it hit me when I saw her. She is a porter and perhaps one of the fattest mobile people I have seen. Not far off from those bed-bound blobs one only sees photo's of in the You magazine or on the Oprah show (you know - those who need the fire department's Operation Dumbo Drop to get them to the hospital).

I didn't know wrists & ankles could look like that! Her Grade IV dyspnoea is not unjustified. She actually manages to bantam the scrub sister & floor nurse, who if you haven't guessed by now are also significantly portly. I know, I know, I shouldn't be so mean because they all suffer from a "glandular problem"*. Somehow, this excuse doesn't hold much water with me after I found the following staff bulletin pinned to the Hobbiton notice board.


Food & meals served in hospitals form an important part of the treatment of patients.

It came to our attention and was discussed during a meeting attended by Dietetic Service Manager, Dietitians, Soft Service Supervisors & Food Service Managers that food ordered and sent for patient consumption are illegally eaten by all levels of other staff on the way to the wards and on ward level.

This illegal practice means that patients do not receive the ration and recommended amounts of nutrients they need to fast track their hospital stay. It has been scientifically researched and reported that patients become malnourished during their hospital stay. As most of our patients already show signs of malnutrition when admitted they need amounts planned to enable them to fight disease.

Eating of patient's food will amount to theft and according to the "Code of Conduct for the Public Service" theft is seen as a very serious transgression.

To stay in line with the food budget is difficult if these illegal practices take place.

Incident reporting and disciplinary steps will be taken against all staff committing any of the following :
  1. Reduce portions of meat, fish or chicken served to patients.
  2. Eating any item from the food trolley only meant for patient meals.
  3. Keeping back or dishing out for won use any item from the food trolley.
  4. Keeping back any item or items from patients receiving special diets.
  5. Using teabags, coffee or sugar issued to wards.
  6. Use or drink any milk issued to wards.
  7. Use or eat any bread, margarine or jam issued to wards.
  8. Over ordering patient numbers in wards.
  9. Drink patients enteral or sip feeds. (OMG!!!)
  10. Drink unused sip feeds issued to patients.
Stock control and auditing in the kitchen areas have received top priority in the past months. New appointments have been made in the Food Service Departments of all three hospitals : of Food Service Managers and Soft Services Managers : they have implemented strict stock control measures. Kitchen doors have also been locked to avoid non-personnel to enter the kitchen areas.

Please find attached a form to be filled in when reporting any illegal incident of eating or taking patient's food.

Please make your staff aware of the seriousness of the problem and how they with their actions jeopardize patient's recovery.
So a few things synapse for me :
  • Where the food comes from for all those tea-breaks.
  • Why the staff look like they do.
  • The word "portly" was derived from "porter".
  • Why hire somebody as a porter who clearly struggles to port themselves? Ah I forgot, it's the same people who hired the porters with inter alia : scoliosis, strabismus accompanying moderate to profound mental retardation, alcoholism, narcolepsy, cleptomania & burns contractures. I am not opposed to (hiring) people with these listed challenges, but am of the opionion they would be better suited to less physical- & patient contact occupations.



Karen Little said...

That's hilarious - patients actually end up more malnourished than what they were before they came!

I must say, I've often considered using the main kitvchen as my own personal buffet: with all the wonderful choices they offer - mush, mash or slush - who wouldn't?

Bongi said...

loved this post.

what i thought interesting is, as a south african, this post is not too surprising. after all i've seen and heard many more things mch more amazing. but if you view this post from the perspective of first world residents, i can imagine their shock. thus is the wonder of medical blogging.

Devorrah said...

I'm a first world resident (California), and as bongi says, I am horrified that anybody would drink a patient's enteral feeds.
There is massive, massive waste in our hospitals, and so much is thrown away. I'm amazed at all the stories of people dying because of faulty or missing equipment. That virtually never happens here, and if it does, you had better call your attorney.