A number of overall trends and changes occurring in health care,
are significantly impacting the means by which food services
are provided in health care facilities throughout Canada. One
of the most significant influences is health care reform and
restructuring. Hospital group collaborations, rationalization
initiatives and the move in certain jurisdictions to regional
mergers are all changing the face of health care provision.
As a result of these mergers and affiliations, C.E.O.'s are
looking for means to increase efficiency and to reduce duplication
of effort between facilities within their control. The provision
of food services is an area where significant savings can be
achieved through a shared approach.
As well, there are demands to make our health care system more
"customer or patient focused". For food services,
this means being able to deliver high quality, appealing meals
at correct service temperatures and at flexible service times.
Meeting these needs with conventional approaches is difficult.
Combined with these changes there is increased pressure today
to "do more with less". Regional C.E.O.'s are being
told that they must continue to provide the best services despite
shrinking operational and capital budgets. A shared food service
system offers a solution to this dilemma but there are also
many ways that the independent operator can make significant
strides to find savings and at times, in doing so, erode the
business case for a shared or regional food system model.
Another trend that is causing food service departments to look
for new approaches is the changing nature of patient care. The
shift to increased out-patient services and shorter average
lengths of stay, translates into a need for flexible meal service
styles, locations and timing.
Conventional insulated hot meal trays, which must be assembled
and served within fixed time frames, may no longer meet the
dietary needs. Patients today often recover at much faster rates
and as a result change diet types of locations more rapidly.
Maintaining quality and proper service temperatures of meals
is often difficult when conventional approaches are used in
outpatient areas where clients may require different types of
meals or nourishment at irregular times.
A major area driving changes in food services systems is the
pace of technological innovation. Significant improvements have
been made in the meal delivery and retherm systems available
today. As well, these systems are now available in different
service formats. Furthermore, the need for increased food safety
is on the rise. With the advent of SARS and increased expectations
of HACCP by local health inspectors, operators are looking at
newer technological advancements for answers.
Many health care facilities facing the need to renovate aging
kitchens - at significant cost, are questioning investing in
high cost on-site cook-chill and/or freeze production systems.
There are multiple sources of pre-prepared foods available through
most commercial food purveyors. These enable health care providers
to utilize outsourcing of food products and invest only in new
cold meal delivery and retherm systems resulting in labour cost
savings and enhanced service quality.