Patients can’t believe they’re in a hospital

Have you heard the joke about hospital food?

Sadly, hospital food has often been derided over the years for being overcooked, lukewarm and unappetising. But in a first for Geelong, Epworth Geelong’s food service has been given a massive make-over that has raised the bar from hospital to restaurant level quality and service.

Food is now prepared fresh on demand. Patients order from a menu on the TV monitor by their bed and kitchen staff prepare their orders and deliver it to the ward hosts, who deliver it fresh and piping hot to the patient.

Ward Host at Epworth Geelong: Amanda Douglas with patient Grace Humphreys. Picture: Mitch Bear

“Patients are surprised,” Epworth Geelong Ward Host Michael Eaton said. “They say, ‘where am I?’ They can’t believe they’re in a hospital that provides great food and personalised service”.

Eaton is no newcomer to hospitality. He was the events supervisor at the Geelong Football Club before starting at the new Epworth Geelong. “I used to manage large events with hundreds of guests and now I get to focus on one person at a time. It’s very gratifying to be able to help make peoples’ stay as pleasant as possible”, he said.

The new ward host role has been created to deliver better service. In the past, patients would have seen around 16 kitchen staff every day, making food service impersonal. Ward hosts now manage all food to their patients as a waiter would in a restaurant. “My patients order their food from a menu when they’re hungry, order drinks when they’re thirsty and I serve them and clean up afterwards,” said Eaton. “It’s a dining experience people really appreciate, particularly when they’re not feeling their best”, he said.

Amanda Douglas is the fifth floor ward host. She’s friendly and warm, and it’s clear that her patients enjoy chatting with her as she serves their food and offers refreshments. “The best thing is being part of the team,” she said. “We often help patients choose their meals, which means we can promote healthy choices and encourage a bit of variety”. She has worked in the health sector previously and remembers when patients were required to order meals many days in advance. “Often they couldn’t remember what they’d ordered nor was it what they felt like at the time,” she said.

Douglas is enthusiastic about working at Epworth Geelong. “There’s not a day that I’m not happy to come to work”, she said.

Nurse Unit Manager Denise Gowty said that the new ward hosts are integral to the clinical care of the patients at the new hospital. “Ward hosts are part of our team. They attend all the patient briefings so they’re aware of issues that arise. Patients love them. They say that nothing’s too much trouble for them”.

“The tea’s always hot,” said patient Grace Humphreys. “They feed you up and they get to know what food you like,” she said. “They know that watermelon’s my favourite”.

Photo: Ward Host at Epworth Geelong: Amanda Douglas with patient Grace Humphreys. Photo courtesy: Mitch Bear.