Recent History – 2002
July 12, 2002, By Jamie Dirom, Daily News Staff
When it was first brought to him, South Peace MLA Blair Lekstrom said he didn’t know what it was.
“It” was food from a local health care facility, brought to his office by one of his constituents. The food, which has been in local facilities for less than a year, was among the hottest topics at a public meeting on health care Thursday night.
Lekstrom and Northern Health Authority officials Andrew Neuner and Bryan Redford got the message in no uncertain terms: food at facilities around Dawson Creek is unacceptable.
They were repeatedly told by residents at the meeting that the food offered at facilities such as Peace River Haven and Rotary Manor approaches inedible.
Area woman Trudy Lord did some research and compared the cost of food for patients to food for prison inmates.
For the patient, food costs between $2.85 to $3.50 per day, Lord said. At a correctional facility in Prince George, the cost for inmates’ food is $6.06 per day. She was told if the prison spent less money on food, the prisoners would riot.
Lekstrom said Lord’s figures approximated what he discovered when he researched food costs at the facilities. He also talked to an official at a jail who said one of the issues behind the higher cost was security.
“But I’m not going to stand here and say I agree with that. Because, you know what? These are people who disobeyed the law,” Lekstrom said. “Maybe we treat our inmates just a little too good when we can’t look after the rest of society.”
Some of those who spoke at the meeting had been patients with special dietary needs or were related to people with such needs.
One woman, whose husband has a medical condition which makes him a choking risk, said he needs sauce on his food to help him get it down — he hasn’t been able to get any.
Another was recently a patient at the local hospital. Allergic to milk, the only suitable food hospital staff could find for her were rice cakes, which were served dry. When she offered to have soy milk and other food brought in, staff said they couldn’t work with it.
Others offered unappetizing descriptions of the food: boxes of pre-peeled potatoes as white as a sheet of paper, egg salad with a shelf life of three weeks, oversalted food and more.
Food at the facilities is outsourced and comes from food processing facilities in Edmonton and Ontario.
After the meeting, Lekstrom said what he had seen of the food — brought to his office following a discussion with a constituent on the topic — wasn’t his idea of an appetizing meal.
“I’m not so sure that I would eat it,” he said, adding that he will take a deeper look into the food service situation to see what can be done.
Northeast Health Service COO Andrew Neuner said he was surprised by the amount of negative response to the food.
Neuner said while he has heard negatives about the food offered at local facilities, nothing had prepared him from what he heard Thursday night.
“We’ve not heard it like we heard it tonight,” he said. “I had some information that things were working reasonably well.”