‘The smell was nauseating’ Patients have their say
“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.