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Bellevue gives `hospital food' new meaning

BELLEVUE, Ohio - After the birth of her third child, Jenny Alliman was surprised to find she could order room service at Bellevue Hospital.

“It came, it was hot, and they had a lot to choose from,” said Mrs. Alliman, 24, of Fremont. “For dinner, I had meatloaf, buttered pasta, and potato soup. For breakfast, I had muffins, pancakes, and breakfast stuff. It was really good.”

In February, the Sandusky County hospital switched from mass-producing meals at set times to tailoring orders to patients' tastes and schedules.

“Our focus for about the past year has taken a real customer-service approach,” said JoAnn Ventura, director of marketing at the 70-bed facility about 12 miles east of Fremont. “Dietary was one of the aspects we were looking at to focus on patient care.”

After visiting hospitals in Michigan that offer room service and reading journals about patient services, the administrators decided room service would be a good fit at Bellevue. Little more than 30 days into the program, administrators are finding room service has many benefits for patients, staff, and the budget.

“Patients like it because they can order when they want,” said Dennis Gnage, manager of dietary services. “Nursing seems to enjoy it - it gives them more time with patients.”

In addition, “There's a lot less tray waste. I observed and participated in the dish area, and the amount of food coming back on trays is minimal now compared to the past,'' he said.

Like many popular pizza places, dietary services, which prepares the menu items, guarantees 30-minute delivery from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. daily. Breakfast is offered all day. Most patients comment they like being able to order what they want, as much as they want, when they want it, Mr. Gnage said.

“If it's within their diet guidelines, they can order as much as they like,” he said.

Mrs. Alliman said she prefers room service to the traditional hospital mealtime service. “I really like it because you can get it when it's convenient for you. You didn't have to wait until the cart came around to eat,'' she said.

Lunch and dinner selections include choice of salad, soup, hot or cold sandwiches, and entrees including personal pan pizza, baked chicken breast, and open-face roast beef sandwiches. “We're trying to get it away from the aura of the old hospital food,” Mr. Gnage said.

The menu has heart-healthy items denoted with a picture of a heart and carbohydrate counts for each selection. There's also a page listing a variety of soft foods. Ordering from the menu is a learning tool for patients who need to eat a heart-healthy, low-sodium, diabetic, or soft diet, Mr. Gnage said.

“Dietary is aware if the person is on a low-salt or low-calorie diet. [They'll say:] `We see you're on a diabetic diet, may we suggest this,'” he said. “We try to guide them to stay on their diet, but if they're very insistent on having it we will send it up to them. But we will educate the dietitian and nurse so that person can be educated on why they shouldn't have that.''

Nurses and dietitians track what patients are eating and ensure they get proper nutrition, he said. The food service fee is included in the room charge.

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