Kitchen in CHSLD: here is a shepherd’s pie that we serve to our elders


Meals prepared a few days in advance and then reheated, worrying errors in the distribution of meals, food spilled during transport, plastic utensils and plates: employees and relatives of residents of CHSLD du CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île- de-Montréal denounce the “shameful treatment” reserved for residents.

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“I’m ashamed… The CHSLDs were singled out for deficient food, but there, it’s worse than worse… It’s not terrible, what we’re doing, but it’s not not the way to serve seniors, ”laments an employee of the Integrated University Health and Social Services Center (CIUSSS) of the North of the Island of Montreal who works at the Rivière-des-Prairies hospital. For fear of reprisals, he only wanted to testify on condition of anonymity.

For dinner, a resident of a CHSLD of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal was treated to a corn-free and dry shepherd's pie because of the dish's inadequate heating.

Courtesy picture

For dinner, a resident of a CHSLD of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal was treated to a corn-free and dry shepherd’s pie because of the dish’s inadequate heating.

Since June 2021, the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île has begun to centralize the kitchens of several of its residential and long-term care centers (CHSLDs). For the moment, three of its establishments, namely Paul-Lizotte, Légaré and Paul-Gouin, receive three to four deliveries of meals prepared in the kitchens of the Rivière-des-Prairies Hospital every day. A fourth CHSLD, Auclair, is to be added in the coming months.

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Due to the lack of staff, it often happens that the employees of the day before did not have time to do the dishes and take care of the garbage cans.

Courtesy picture

Due to the lack of staff, it often happens that the employees of the day before did not have time to do the dishes and take care of the garbage cans.

No pleasure

In addition to employees, it is also residents and relatives who denounce a sharp drop in the quality of the food served several times a day to several hundred residents.

“Eating is supposed to be fun, but now it’s not. I often have to force myself, because I have to eat something, otherwise I would have put it in the trash… I can’t go without eating,” laments a 64-year-old resident who lives in CHSLD Paul-Lizotte. He too requested anonymity.

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In another living environment, the son of a resident has already seen his mother receive a “charred French toast that looked like and had the consistency of the sole of a shoe”.

“My mother often describes the food as ‘shit’, so several times a week I prepare meals for her at home and bring them to her at the residence”, explains the caregiver who preferred to keep his name silent.

The unsavory food of CHSLDs has been a subject of debate for years in Quebec. The food described by the speakers interviewed by The newspaper is far from the coq au vin, lasagna or salmon steak that former Minister of Health Gaétan Barrette had tasted in front of the media in 2016.

The sauce of a dish served to a resident of a CHSLD du Nord-de-l'Île-de-Montréal is filled with water after the plate had been badly thawed a few hours earlier.

Courtesy picture

The sauce of a dish served to a resident of a CHSLD du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is filled with water after the plate had been badly thawed a few hours earlier.

Employees

The CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île indicates that the purpose of centralization is to ensure the quality control of meals, while responding to labor challenges.

“This centralization is not done at the expense of the quality of the food served. On the contrary, it makes it possible to ensure the consistency and quality of the menus, ”says Émilie Jacob, media relations officer for the health establishment, by email.

But for the employees encountered by The newspaper, the reality on the ground is very different. Several also agreed to testify on condition of anonymity.

“Before, we made food from day to day. We cooked and served it right away. Now the dishes are served two, three, four days after being prepared. Even the hotdogs, the hamburgers, the fries…” maintains an employee who works in the food industry.

“Coffee is also prepared the day before, cooled and then reheated in the morning. It’s disgusting,” says another employee who previously worked in the kitchens of a CHSLD.

When transporting between establishments, dishes often tip over in transport carts.  Some residents then do not have all the dishes on their menu.

Courtesy picture

When transporting between establishments, dishes often tip over in transport carts. Some residents then do not have all the dishes on their menu.

The fact is that, from now on, meals are prepared in advance, quickly cooled and finally reheated in trolleys during service.

However, sometimes the trays are placed incorrectly and cold meals are reheated, while meals that are supposed to be served hot remain cold.

Worse still, mistakes are often made and residents are not provided with a meal suitable for their diet.

“Instead of food that is supposed to be soft, residents sometimes get bits. If we don’t redouble our efforts, we have residents who can choke. It really increases the risk of errors a lot, it’s appalling, ”says a beneficiary attendant.

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It also happens that food that should be part of the meal does not end up there, is not given to residents and is not replaced.

“Once, I warned that a food item was missing. I was told: ‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, they have Alzheimer’s, they’ll have forgotten about it tomorrow,’ an employee says indignantly.

The occasional lack of staff and the breakage of certain equipment also prevent dishes and utensils from being washed properly. It then happens very regularly that residents eat with plastic cutlery.

The occasional lack of staff and the breakage of certain equipment also prevent dishes and utensils from being washed properly.  It then happens very regularly that residents eat with plastic cutlery.

Courtesy picture

The occasional lack of staff and the breakage of certain equipment also prevent dishes and utensils from being washed properly. It then happens very regularly that residents eat with plastic cutlery.

Transportation

Transporting hundreds of meals several times a day also brings its share of complications, several employees say.

“If the delivery person has a heavy foot on the accelerator, the dishes overturn in the trolleys and some residents then do not have all the dishes on their menu. Coffees and soups also spill all over the trays, ”laments a kitchen assistant from one of the CHSLDs.

For a worker, it is absolutely necessary that the CIUSSS find a solution so that the situation does not worsen and that the residents can find pleasure during meals.

“Families need to know. We do what we can, but we can’t take it anymore and no one listens to us, ”laments an employee.

Labor shortage and waste of food

The labor shortage and the centralization of the kitchens at the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal create many problems around food service.

“It’s getting worse and worse for the residents, for the patients, for the staff. We’re at the end of it, it’s appalling. It’s a mess, ”explains an employee of the Integrated University Center for Health and Social Services (CIUSSS) du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal.

For fear of reprisal, all employees with whom The newspaper spoke asked that their names be withheld.

Despite the centralization of the kitchens of several CHSLDs in its territory, the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal is facing labor shortage problems.

Be understood

Result: many employees coming directly from employment agencies come to work, sometimes constituting almost half of the food service team.

“They don’t speak a single word of French and speak a little English,” says a worker.

Like many, this employee explains that this makes things much more complex at work.

“You have to repeat all the time, in another language. It’s exhausting at the end of the day,” she adds.

Common Mistakes

With fewer qualified personnel and more tasks, there are more errors. Several employees of the CIUSSS food service also denounce the frequent food waste.

“The other day I had to throw 58 portions of mac and cheese, because someone hadn’t put the labels with the dates,” laments an employee.

According to another worker, the quantities of food thrown away are astronomical, “while there are people who are starving”.

what they said

“My mother often calls the food ‘shit’, so several times a week I prepare meals for her at home and bring them to her at the residence.”

– The son of a resident of a CHSLD

“Coffee is also prepared the day before, cooled and then reheated in the morning. It’s disgusting.”

– An employee of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal

“Families need to know. We do what we can, but we can’t take it anymore and no one listens to us.

– An employee of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal

“Once, I warned that a food item was missing. I was told: “Oh, it doesn’t matter, they have Alzheimer’s, they will forget about it tomorrow.”

– An employee of the CIUSSS du Nord-de-l’Île-de-Montréal

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