IRON MOUNTAIN - There is an old adage that claims, "The surest way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
The phrase could also be, "The way to good health is through good food."
This was part of the rationale for the renovation of the kitchen and food service program at Dickinson County Memorial Hospital.
A new Room Service Program has been launched at the hospital.
"The kitchen environment has changed from bulk cooking to short order cooking just like in a restaurant," said Lynne Gussert, Manager of Materials Management and Food and Nutritional Services. "Food is medicine - it promotes the body's healing power. It is vital to the health of our patients to serve them food that they want when they want it so they eat. Sometimes what really sounds good to one person is a bowl of cheerios and milk for supper while someone else may be hungry for pot roast and mashed potatoes; now they can have whatever they want."
"We anticipate that this new program will improve patients' health, increase their satisfaction with their health care experience while a patient in our hospital, and significantly decrease waste," said Gussert.
"The new program, as well as the company that helped us implement it, were thoroughly researched. Most of the kitchen renovation work was done during off hours by our plant operations staff with help from local plumbing and electrical contractors," she said.
There is now a Room Service Menu at each patient's bedside, and food service is available to them from 6:45 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., seven days a week.
Breakfast is available all day.
The lunch and dinner menu is the same, but there are enough choices and combinations available to provide a wide variety allowable for most patients' diets.
Nutrition counseling is provided by registered dietitians to patients with medical conditions that require more restrictive diets so proper menu items are selected.
Nutrition guidance is provided on the menu itself with red heart icons indicating heart healthy selections, and the amount of carbohydrates is indicated for each menu item as well.
Patients call in their food preferences directly to the Food and Nutritional Services Department.
Food is delivered to the patients in their rooms within 45 minutes of receiving the order - fresh and complete with beverages and condiments, on warm or cold plates depending upon what was ordered - by uniformed, friendly, professional staff.
"The provision of room service dining is one way we can create a better health care experience for our patients," said Eileen Sparpana, Chief Finance Officer. "It helps put hospitality into a hospital stay."
"I am very proud of our staff," said Gussert.
"We have a staff of 22, and some of them have been doing their jobs the same way for 30 years," she said. "This has been a major culture change. We have gone from doing everything manually to computer software that makes this new Room Service Program possible. It has required them to cook differently in a totally different environment; they have all stepped up to the plate with positive attitudes and have made the necessary changes in their work day."
Dickinson County Memorial Hospital's kitchen now has a hot zone and a cold zone connected by a pass-through window.
Hot foods are prepared on cook tops that include gas burners and a large griddle on the surface with refrigerated drawers beneath.
Staff cooks do not have to run around from place to place. The hot food is prepared and passed through to the cold zone where cold items and beverages are added and passed to staff who assembles the tray with food and all necessary items and place it in a cart for delivery to the appropriate patient room.
Kitchen technology is state-of-the-art and includes a convection oven and a "combi oven" - technology that was introduced just two years ago and allows for moist and dry cooking in the same compartment.
Everything is timed and programmed to prepare fresh food from scratch in minutes. Nothing is pre-made or kept waiting. Menu items include such items as made-to-order pizzas, salads and deli sandwiches.
Food is still prepared in bulk for serving to employees, visitors and family members in the cafeteria. There are established cafeteria hours for each meal of the day, and a salad bar is available.
"Room service dining has definitely become a more integral part of the patient's health care experience as over 40 percent of hospitals nationwide have implemented this type of food service program," said John Schon, Administrator / CEO.
"I commend Lynne Gussert and Karen Kollmann on their leadership throughout this transition and our entire dietary staff for their efforts in helping to provide our patients with the best possible healthcare experience," Schon said.