Members of the Food Services team at Richmond Hospital from left to right: Betty, Robert, Jean, Melda, Manjula, Yvonne and Praveena.
The Food Services team at Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) plays an important role in the day-to-day lives of patients in hospital and long-term care homes, with many responsibilities such as providing daily meals to patients, running cafeterias and catering for staff.
Like most things, COVID-19 has required the Food Services team to shift the way they operate.
“Over the last nine months, we’re made some significant changes. We removed the self-serve options in the cafeteria, installed plexiglass at the cashier stations, put in place new debit and credit card terminals to reduce the frequency of touchpoints. This is all in addition to our focus on increasing the frequency of hand hygiene, implementing enhanced sanitation schedules, wearing masks, wearing protective eyewear when necessary and maintaining physical distancing," says Leanne McPhee, general manager of Food Services at Richmond Hospital. “We continue to support our staff with open communication and continuously educating them on safety procedures while they are in and outside of work."
New safety protocols have been extremely important in keeping both staff and patients safe around food as the team continues to play a critical role as we enter the ninth month of the pandemic.
“I really enjoy talking to patients and it's very satisfying to see them happy with their food," says Pratima, a dietary aid at Richmond Hospital. “At the end of the day, our focus is on patient care and I'm happy that we've been able to continue our work with safety precautions in place."
Despite the pandemic, food is an invaluable aspect of the high-quality care that patients experience across VCH sites.
“At the start of the pandemic when there was a lot of uncertainty, I really wanted our staff to remember that food is one of those things that we can't take away without people noticing — it's a really important part of their day," says Jennifer Dobie, general manager of Patient Food Services at Lions Gate Hospital and Evergreen House. “Staff continue to do an amazing job of keeping people nourished and safe."
With many of the traditional food celebrations off the table due to new safety protocols, Jennifer and her team worked together to find new ways of using food to spread cheer. In July, they had an ice cream cart go around to each floor of long-term care residence Evergreen House, with residents able to select their own flavours.
“It was the highlight of the month for many of the people staying with us — everyone just lit up with a smile!" recalls Jennifer.
The team went on to do two barbeque deliveries and a physically-distanced high tea event in the dining room. To celebrate the upcoming holiday season, the food services team has developed a festive menu that includes eggnog, peppermint chocolate cake and shortbread as a way to spread holiday cheer to residents.
It's been a challenging year, which means now more than ever is the time to show appreciation for the amazing work the Food Services team continues to do across VCH.
At VGH, a special gift was organized by management for each member of the Food Service and Hospitality: a healthcare hero t-shirt to signify unity, perseverance and gratitude for their hard work.
“Wearing this shirt and seeing everyone else in the same one truly makes me feel part of a team that I can be proud of," says Noni, a dietary aid at VGH.
At Lions Gate Hospital, the food services team continues to do bonding activities, most recently working together to collect canned goods that Jennifer then dropped off at the local food bank.
“I keep reminding my staff how critical their work is and how proud everyone is of them," says Jennifer.