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Submitted-February 21, 2022–Since the closure of the Scotland County Care Center and Residential Care Facility in Memphis last month, the Scotland County Hospital had to make other arrangements for inpatient meals. Andrea Graham RDN, Licensed Dietitian, Dietary Services Supervisor, at Scotland County Hospital & Clinics says the Dietary Services Department of the Hospital worked quickly with Care Center officials to shift its approach for patient meals. Graham nimbly recruited her commercial kitchen management skills to assume supervision of kitchen operations without a hitch. For many years, the Hospital has contracted inpatient meals with the Care Center kitchen. According to Graham and Hospital administration, it’s been a good arrangement and satisfactory to both parties. With the closure of the Care Center, this arrangement would cease.
After a great deal of quick thinking and productive conversations on both sides, it was mutually agreed to allow the Hospital to lease the Care Center kitchen space. The Hospital was fortunate to retain some of the Care Center kitchen staff and create a seamless transition for inpatient meal trays for the Hospital. This, however, does not come without extensive extra cost to the Hospital. As a result of absorbing the fixed costs of operating the kitchen, the per tray costs have more than doubled based on average census. Dr. Randy Tobler, CEO, Scotland County Hospital & Clinics said, “We really appreciated the Care Center letting us step in and take over their kitchen. That feat in and of itself was tricky to negotiate with state licensure and attorneys. The Hospital is now paying the monthly utilities for the Care Center in order to lease the kitchen. This is a lofty price tag and not an expense we were prepared to absorb. The fact is, this arrangement was the best choice for our patients.”
Although a great deal of extra expense, Graham says, the change has benefits, “Now that we are operating the kitchen, we have more hospital dietary staff members to assist with menu completion, nourishment room stocking and tray pass. This allows us to better care for our patients and it relieves the nursing staff from picking up and passing trays for dinner and on weekends as they had been doing.” Additionally, Graham reports “Menus will be changing to increase fresh produce and higher fiber options.” Graham says the down-side of operating the kitchen without the Care Center is the smaller quantities needed. “We will have to be creative to prevent food waste. For example, when we open a #10 can of peaches we may use them as a side dish today and again in a recipe in 2 days.” Graham is hopeful that this issue will be reduced by offering hospital employee meals in the future.
Providing nourishing, well-balanced, appealing meals for inpatients takes skill and planning from a multi-disciplinary team. Once the diet is determined for the inpatient between the registered dietitian and the admitting physician, the Hospital’s dietary staff completes menu selection with each patient. This allows patients to select foods that are appealing to them that also fit their diet order. It also gives the patient an opportunity to ask questions about their diet. Completed menus are brought to the kitchen for the next day’s meal service. It takes several staff members to keep the food service process operating efficiently and without interruption when three meals a day are provided, seven days a week, including holidays, plus snacks, dietary supplements and sometimes treats! Currently, that team consists of Graham and SueJane Siver, Dietary Manager. The kitchen staff are Cara Romore, Pashia Ludwick, Venessa Spurlock, Mary Ransford, Duane Bolin, Taydem Morton and Emma Anders.