Tom Shearer was an accountant for 15 years before making food his career, which led him to St. Luke's Wood River Medical Center four weeks ago.
"Sometimes, that's the best thing that happens in a hospital—the food you eat," said Shearer, the hospital's new food-service manager.
Shearer, previously at St. Luke's Boise Medical Center, was transferred here to transform the hospital's kitchen so that it operates under the same model of all hospitals in the St. Luke's Idaho system. Hospital CEO John Kee said the Twin Falls, Boise and Wood River hospitals currently have varying, disjointed food-service programs, which they have independently developed.
The Wood River hospital underwent a monumental shift about a year ago to break free of the hospital-food mold, dubbing its revolutionized program "Green Cuisine." For the first time, the hospital's meals were made from scratch emphasizing nourishment value, and ingredients were bought as locally as possible depending on the time of year.
Shearer's arrival brings one question immediately to mind. When all the hospitals' kitchens are reformed to fit a common mold, will the Wood River hospital revert back to its old ways and Green Cuisine be lost?
Shearer said the effect would be quite the opposite.
"The work done here is going to enhance the whole St. Luke's system," he said, adding that he was unaware of the improvements made at the Wood River hospital before coming here a month ago. "They've got a lot of good things up here that will be of value for us (the St. Luke's Idaho Health System). The purpose is to take the most valuable pieces and put them together."
He said the Boise hospital is running along "parallel tracks" to the Wood River hospital when it comes to local and healthy food. However, Boise is farther ahead in some ways, such as cutting down its amount of individually packaged products, which has eliminated 500,000 pounds of trash a year going to the landfill. He said the Wood River hospital could take advantage of these practices, while Boise and Twin Falls could learn from the Wood River's omission of trans fats and high-fructose corn syrup.
Shearer said the Wood River hospital is bound to see changes, the most noticeable being a shift in food preparation. The Wood River hospital currently prepares foods in mass quantities by the tray with two meal options. He said this would change to patients requesting specific orders from a much larger menu. The meal would be made on the spot and delivered to a patient's room in 25 to 45 minutes maximum.
"It's very similar to hotel room service," said hospital spokeswoman Tanya Keim.
Shearer said the room-service system has already proven itself with Boise, which made the switch six and a half years ago, and Meridian three years ago. He said the room-service system cuts down on waste seen when preparing food in mass quantities.
"You don't see a lot of waste up here [in Wood River], but we don't see any waste in Boise," Shearer said.
Shearer said a healthy-heart menu would be out Nov. 22, but no transitions have taken place yet in the Wood River. He said it would take until the end of January for the transition to be complete.
Kee said the hospital and St. Luke's system as a whole doesn't want to rush it, but make sure the change is best for all three hospitals, similar to the system's other initiative to standardize price of care across all hospitals.
"Coming in and knee-jerk changing anything isn't something we want to do," Kee said.
Trevon Milliard: firstname.lastname@example.org