By Vesanto Melina
When people speak of hospital food, they don’t often use the adjective “good”. In fact I don’t recall having heard those three words in combination. However I recently went to University of British Columbia Hospital for hip replacement surgery and overall, I was blown away by a thoroughly positive experience of our medical system, and the expertise of our health professionals and staff in managing various aspects of healing and recovery.
The orthopedic surgeons (Dr Bas Masri and his team) are a very skilled and capable team. The anesthetist and those who determine or administer pain medications were extremely good at their jobs. I’m not much of a person for pills, but the nurses and others sure know what they are doing! I had heard scare stories regarding hospital-induced infections; yet staff took such care regarding sanitation that any fears were allayed. Physio and occupational therapists provided tips that were powerfully effective when followed with care. Two weeks after surgery I could walk around home without crutches.
I had requested vegan meals, though I was uncertain whether I would need to rely on my partner or the occasional visitor to bring items from outside. To my surprise, the standard vegan meals on the menu were both tasty and nutritious.
The lunch and supper rotation included: baked beans; curried rice with beans; curried chickpeas; falafel plate; hummus salad plate; lentil stew casserole; pan fried tofu (nicely seasoned, by the way); vegetable jambalaya; vegetarian chili; vegetarian macaroni and tomato pasta; vegetarian stew; vegetarian wieners and beans; and veggie burger. Side salads with vegan dressings were available, and it was possible to order more than one. Dessert was fresh (orange or half banana) or canned fruit. The breakfast tray arrived with some combination of Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, or dry cereals; toast with peanut butter; soymilk; fruit juice; and prunes. With this menu a person consumes no zero cholesterol or trans fats and little saturated fat, reduces one risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, overweight, and obesity, and can expect to live longer! Similar menu rotations have recently been put in place or are evolving at Vancouver General Hospital and at St Paul’s.
I write on this topic because I am aware of how different my experience could have been if my nationality had been different and I had joint problems, which are the Achilles heel of my family. For example, if I were Nepalese with decreased mobility, the boundaries of my life would shrink, access to health care could be extremely limited, and life would be far shorter. If I were American, such an operation and hospital experience could cost between $45,000 and $90,000. I could choose to fly to India or Thailand for the surgery and hospital stay, paying a tenth that price plus airfare, yet I would have less confidence in the sanitation.
In visiting Vancouver General Hospital and the Gordon and Leslie Diamond Health Care Centre at various times as an outpatient, I was further impressed by the quality of healthful food available in hospital cafeterias and other food service outlets.
So this is really a column of gratitude for what we have in our fine country and of thanks to our health professionals and health care and food service workers. We are blessed.
Vesanto Melina is a Registered Dietitian based in Vancouver BC. She recently did a cross-Canada tour sponsored by Dietitians of Canada, on 2 topics: on diabetes prevention and on vegetarian nutrition. Three months after the hip surgery she was able to take up cycling again. She is pictured here with Cooking Vegan coauthored by herself and Professional Chef Joseph Forest, The Book Publishing Co. Her website is www.nutrispeak.com; phone: 604-882-6782.