Who do you trust, chemist or cow?

The nurses in the ICU here were top-notch and instrumental in getting me ready in short order for transfer to a regular ward to recover.

Who do you trust, chemist or cow?

Before the holidays I promised to share my experiences as a seriously ill patient at Ridge Meadows Hospital.

Little did I know that I would have ample opportunity to enhance my observations and insights as a patient by requiring further hospitalization to deal with an unexpected set of complications.

These were nobody’s fault and I am grateful for the competency and care with how these unusual problems were dealt with.

As  a physician, I was aware of the many positives a patient could receive at RMH when requiring admission for diagnostic investigations, surgical procedures and just care for a host of  medical conditions.

Having worked in a variety of hospitals in different countries over my 50-year career as a family physician, I can say our community hospital offers equal or better care than the majority.

The nurses in the ICU here were top-notch and instrumental in getting me ready in short order for transfer to a regular ward to recover.

But that does not mean there were certain things that could be improved.

For nearly four weeks I had ample opportunity to try out the menu. I had lost 24 pounds and was eager to start regaining some of that.

Three times a day a tray was put in front of me. Prominent was a message from the Fraser Health Food and Nutrition Services. In bold and large letters it stated: Food is important to your recovery.

Underneath this heading: “We want to make sure you are eating well”.

Who would argue with that?

Certainly not if one is given a further opportunity to comment on the quantity or if one would prefer to pass on any food item and to please let them know.

I dutifully wrote daily that I prefer tea and not coffee, and what did I get? Only coffee, during my first admission.

Later on I was wondering if the people in the food and nutrition department had any idea what constituted a healthy diet, or was the bottom line more important than the well-being and speedy recovery of the hospitalized patients?

For example: what was presented in print as cranberry juice for breakfast, in reality it was cranberry cocktail, mainly a sugary drink instead of real juice. All other juices had sodium bicarbonate and potassium sorbate added.

Cheerios and Rice Krispies certainly do not qualify as healthy breakfast items, nor did the salty pork sausage patty swimming in grease. Almost every breakfast had margarine on the tray, not butter. There is no health benefit or decreased risk to be derived from eating margarine instead of butter. I wonder why dietitians trust the chemist more than the cow.

I suspect again the excuse is the bottom line.

Other breakfast items were quite OK. The strawberry and raspberry yoghurt was nice, but then was changed to French vanilla, with artificial sweetener and only one gram  of protein. One day there was plain cheddar cheese and the next time marble cheddar cheese with color added.

Some of the main course of the lunches were quite tasty and healthy, especially the crispy perch and the cod nuggets, as well as the grilled salmon. It was amusing to see the same low quality ground beef was disguised as meatloaf, Salisbury steak or meatballs on different days. But at least it provided a decent amount of protein.

The beef pot roast was a challenge, since it resembled a recycled leather shoe sole, but the nutritional value was undoubtedly there if one managed to eat it.

The BBQ ribs required a dose of imagination since there were no ribs to be found.

The tossed salad consisted of mainly pieces of iceberg lettuce with an eighth of a teaspoon of grated carrots and two slivers of cabbage. Nutritional value: close to zero.

The dinners varied between some quite tasty dishes like shepherd’s pie, macaroni and cheese and rather repulsive cheddar perogies. Some of the soups were watery and tasteless.

I would like to challenge Fraser Heath Authority CEO Nigel Murray and his board to eat all meals exactly as served to patients for one week without changing, cheating or adding anything, then decide if the food  is in keeping with the seemingly Orwellian claim to ensure patients are eating well .


Dr. Marco Terwiel is a retired family physician who lives in Maple Ridge.