Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 27, 2012 - 1:15 pm

Iqaluit hospital patients will soon eat food shipped up from Ottawa

QGH's frozen food stocks could also help feed the city during a "pandemic" or other disaster

SAMANTHA DAWSON
The entrance to the new wing of the Qikiqtani General Hospital will house a renovated kitchen. There, dietary aides will prepare new frozen meals
delivered from Ottawa as well as country food for patients. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)
The entrance to the new wing of the Qikiqtani General Hospital will house a renovated kitchen. There, dietary aides will prepare new frozen meals delivered from Ottawa as well as country food for patients. (PHOTO BY SAMANTHA DAWSON)

Soon, patients at the Qikiqtani General Hospital in Iqaluit will be able to enjoy country foods during their stay as part of the food menu choices.

The idea of incorporating country foods into the menu at the hospital comes after an overall change in food preparation there.

“We know we can do better,” said Christina Rooney, the hospital services dietician, who started her job at the QGH in September 2011.

Since her arrival at the hospital, Rooney has looked into ways to improve the food served at the hospital.

Now, a big change is in the works: food will be shipped up, frozen, from a company in Ottawa that specializes in hospital food.

Foods eaten at the hospital will no longer be prepared on site by a company under Qikiqtaaluk Logistics.

In Ottawa, “they cook and freeze the food in a way that retains nutrients,” Rooney said.

Under the new arrangement, the hospital will receive the frozen food and store it until needed, she said.

An added benefit of the new frozen food system is its possible role in a “pandemic plan.”

If a huge blizzard or some other disaster hits Iqaluit, the hospital could help feed the city for a few days with its frozen stocks of food,  Rooney said.

The decision to ship up hospital food from Ottawa to Iqaluit also brings short-term benefits, as time will be saved on chopping and cooking food, Rooney said.

The QL employees who now cook the food at the hospital have been offered jobs as “dietary aid workers” under the new system, when QL’s contract expires at the end of the month.

The new “dietary aid workers,” who will bring food to patients, will be able to speak to patients in English and Inuktitut.

And they’ll receive training on using the frozen food and on the two new “trans-racks” or rolling crates full of trays that can keep food hot or cool.

However, despite new ways of obtaining food for hospital patients, who stay on average about two or three days, the menu items won’t change that much in the shift away from hospital-prepared food.

Hospital staples of shepherd’s pie, fish filets, sweet and sour pork, swiss steak, sauce and potatoes and quiche, introduced last year, will remain on the menu.

However, patients will have more of a say in what they eat.

Before they would “get what they get and that’s it,” said Rooney.

As for country foods, these will be prepared traditionally, raw and frozen — in Iqaluit. 

The goal is to provide country foods at the hospital, as soon as possible, and keep them in a constant supply, she said.

A “country food prep” area is planned for the hospital kitchen, which will undergo renovations starting in 2014.

Overall, the menu will also be more “controlled and standardized” in order to improve the service, Rooney said.

Currently, workers run food around the hospital and it can get cold before reaching the patient.

With the new trans-racks that problem should be eliminated, she said.

The hospital also wants to model to patients what a healthy diet should look like at home.

Food is a crucial part of medical care, Rooney said.

For example, people with hypertension shouldn’t get too much sodium, and people newly diagnosed with diabetes shouldn’t have too much sugar.

“What’s important to us is that they eat well and that they enjoy their food,” she added.

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