Life on the Kildare frontline: Keeping patients well fed during the pandemic

Catering Department: Meeting nutritional needs of patients at Naas hospital is part of their recovery

KildareNow reporter

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Life on the Kildare frontline: Keeping patients well fed during the pandemic

Frontline worker Martina McCabe

Frontline worker Martina McCabe is a Multi Task Attendant in the Catering Department at Naas General Hospital. Here is a day in her working life during the Covid-19 pandemic as told in her own words:

Hello, my name is Martina McCabe, I am a Multi Task Attendant in the Catering Department at Naas General Hospital. I’ve been in Naas for just over eight years now. On my roster I could be assigned to the kitchen or a ward.

My alarm goes off at 6.30am and I have been assigned to a ward specifically designated for patients who are affected by Covid-19 as well as the Coronary Care Unit today.

I tend to leave my house at 7.10am as I don’t know how bad traffic is going to be. Once I am at the hospital, I change into my uniform and stop off to have my temperature taken and recorded before making my way to the ward.

The shift is from 8am to 6.30pm. I make my way to the pantry and then go down to the nurses’ station to get a diet sheet for the day. The diet sheet contains information regarding any dietary requirements of the patients on the ward I have been assigned to, eg, if a patient is on normal diet, a modified consistency diet or maybe fasting for a procedure.

I also find out from the nurse which rooms are restricted access and which rooms have Covid-19 patients in them as I would have to wear appropriate PPE, including gowns, aprons, gloves and masks as directed by infection control training.

We begin to get everything ready for breakfast, set the trays, make tea and toast and then we begin our breakfast service.

Before Covid-19, the patients would see our faces clearly, but now we wear masks so it's harder for them to recognise us.

We greet our patients with a “good morning, how are you today and what would you like for your breakfast?”

We try to cater to everyone as we would have a selection of cereal and we also serve hot porridge, tea, toast, coffee and juices. If a patient doesn’t like anything on offer, we will always try to accommodate them.

Once breakfast has finished and we have collected all the trays, we begin to clean up the pantry; our cleaning schedule takes place throughout the day, in between breakfast and lunch.

We receive a menu for the patients every morning and there is a variety of choice for the patients, including vegan and vegetarian options and we also cater for people with food allergies.

Fresh water is given to our patients every morning and it’s replenished throughout the day. Once our list has been done for lunch and for tea we proceed to serve mid-
morning tea to our patients with the offer of a biscuit at about 10am. At this time we would be due 15 minute break for a cup of tea ourselves as our mornings can be quite busy.

On returning to our pantry we check that our trays are properly set for lunch as we serve homemade soup at 11.30am before the lunch trolleys have to be collected from the main kitchen at 12.30pm.

After lunch we have a break where I meet up with some of the other girls and it’s a chance just to get away from the ward.

Then it's back to the ward where changes may have taken place; some patients might have been discharged, new patients may have arrived, people who may have been fasting may now need a cup of tea and a slice of toast after their procedure, so we must be brought up to speed on the status of patients in the ward.

Afternoon tea
and cake

At this time we start preparing the trolley to serve afternoon tea at 3pm and we always get some freshly baked cake from the main kitchen which is a nice treat! And of course we always have our reliable biscuit on hand as well. Some days can be actually quite hard as we keep having to put on and take off our PPE gowns, gloves and masks. It can get very warm and very exhausting!

It can be very difficult if a patient has passed away. Before this pandemic we would offer the family our condolences and make them a cup of tea but restrictions and public health advice mean this is no longer possible.

That’s a clear sign of the times that we are currently living in, and the measures taken to protect patients, family members and staff.

It is now time to go to the main kitchen to collect the trolley containing tea for our patient. After this is served and we have collected the trays from the patients, we say good night to the patients.

Once again we clean up and sanitise everywhere and make sure everything is ready for my colleagues to begin the whole process again the next morning.

Before I leave the hospital, I change into my normal clothes and put my uniform into a bag to be brought home and washed at a high temperature.

The Catering Department always wore aprons and gloves but since Covid-19 a lot has changed. We now have to wear PPE gowns, aprons, gloves and a face mask and sometimes goggles when going into a room with a Covid-19 positive patient.

The Catering Department has a vital part to play when it comes to patient care as we hope to meet all their nutritional needs as part of their recovery.

I would like to thank the public for staying home at this difficult time and for social distancing. We need to listen as a country so we can get through this and get back to some normality.

Thank you!