‘The smell was nau­se­at­ing’ Pa­tients have their say

The Irish Times - Weekend Review - - NEWS REVIEW - PAUL CULLEN

“The food is by and large ined­i­ble,” says Laura, cur­rently re­cov­er­ing from surgery in an Ir­ish hos­pi­tal. “Din­ner at noon, smell is nau­se­at­ing, has been cooked hours be­fore­hand. Choice of dried fish or chicken with lumpy yet over­cooked veg. Dessert is high-sugar jelly and ice-cream.”

Laura makes the point that she cooks healthy, nu­tri­tious meals for her fam­ily at home on a tight bud­get “of­ten for less than ¤1 per per­son”, so cost should not be an is­sue.

Yet in her hos­pi­tal one nigth this week, din­ner was “breaded fish that was both dried out and soggy in one por­tion. And that’s it un­til the next morn­ing”.

Sor­cha O’Reilly has had con­trast­ing ex­pe­ri­ences with the food served up dur­ing two dif­fer­ent hos­pi­tal stays.

In 2010, she was in St Vin­cent’s, where where were “al­most no suitable menu op­tions” given her in­abil­ity to eat wheat starch or dairy.

“One day I got a meal with­out wheat or dairy and it was not palat­able. Veg­eta­bles were over­cooked, re­duc­ing their nu­tri­tional value, the chicken had lost its flavour and bits of the mashed potato were un­der-cooked. The smell was nau­se­at­ing, the ap­pear­ance off-putting and the help­ings far too large. It was slop.”

Her par­ents ended up bring­ing in her food as the only item on the menu she could eat was jelly.

In 2014, she was in the Black­rock Clinic, which was “food heaven in com­par­i­son! The meals were at rea­son­able hours, truly de­li­cious and in­ter­est­ing and the menu was var­ied enough to cater for me. When it didn’t, the cater­ing team would ar­range some­thing spe­cially.”

It isn’t all bad news for the pub­lic hos­pi­tals. Enda Fo­ley was in the Mater in late 2016 and says the food served was “very good with a great choice of fish dishes. The sauces were ex­cep­tion­ally good pre­pared by a very good chef who knew what he was do­ing”.

Niki Byrne found the food in the ma­ter­nity unit of Univer­sity Hos­pi­tal Gal­way “quite good. Tasty and lots of choices. Only neg­a­tive was the lack of fruit”.

For Michael Keav­eny, the is­sue was less about food qual­ity – which was rel­a­tively good dur­ing his hos­pi­tal stay – but the prob­lem of miss­ing a meal when he had to go for a test.

This usu­ally meant hav­ing to go hun­gry, he says.

Also, his con­di­tion meant he was un­able to eat cer­tain foods but the menu didn’t cater for this and on oc­ca­sion he had to rely on the hos­pi­tal can­teen for din­ner.

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