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New kitchen putting smiles on faces

Sharron Farmer's been in the rehab ward at Braeside for the last six weeks. There, she’s been learning to live again: regaining her voice, learning how to swallow again and recovering the ability to walk.

7 months ago, Sharron Farmer had a stroke. Speaking in the dining room at Braeside Hospital she gets emotional as she shares about the journey she’s been on, coming so close to death, nearly losing all her abilities and having to build them all back up again from nothing.

Sharron couldn’t be more grateful for the care she’s received. “It’s lovely here. It doesn’t feel like a hospital, it’s just beautiful,” she tells me.

Lucky for Sharron, she arrived at Braeside just after the installation of a brand new fresh cook kitchen. Previously, patient food had been coming chilled from other hospitals a distance away and was reheated for use at Braeside. Now it’s all cooked fresh on site by a dedicated team of kitchen staff.

One of the highlights of Sharron’s rehabilitation has been enjoying food again, moving from pureed food to semi-soft food, and now to a normal diet.

Despite having to be on a modified diet, Sharron she says she's really enjoyed the food coming out of the new kitchen.

“The food is so fresh—restaurant quality. It’s beautiful, very tasty and there are so many choices,” she says.

In fact, it’s so good, Sharron has gone from never eating breakfast to having it every day. “I never used to, but I eat breakfast now. I have scrambled eggs, prunes, toast with vegemite. When I get back home I’m going to be asking ‘Where’s my breakkie?’”

Hospital Dietitian Sarah Brown says it’s been amazing to see the palliative care, rehabilitation and older person's mental health patients at the hospital getting the nutrients they need while enjoying the new menu, with some patients even trying new foods for the first time.

“Nutrition for healing and recovery is just so critical for people to progress with physiotherapy and building muscle mass. So for patients to come in and enjoy the food, it’s now the whole package, having amazing food to support the therapy and care. It’s wonderful, it really is.”

Located in south-west Sydney, Braeside Hospital has patients from a large number of cultural groups. As a result, the new menu is an attempt to cater to a range of tastes and is tweaked on a daily basis according to Kitchen Manager Michelle Grover.

“We have things like vegetarian, beef and chicken biryani, Cantonese dishes, Malaysian curry dishes and Middle eastern lamb. “ lot of the patients wouldn’t normally cook food like this for themselves, but they’re trying these dishes and enjoying them.”

The menu was developed through an extended consultation process, with some dishes even being based on patient recipes.

“One particular dish that springs to mind is the Cantonese Steamed Chicken,” says dietitian Sarah.“I remember exactly the patient who requested the dish. The patient’s daughter would cook it and bring it in, and she loved eating it. She shared the key ingredients and now the dish features on our new menu. I think of that patient every time that dish comes around.”    

Head Chef at the hospital, Gina Sauturaga, has worked in HammondCare hospitals for nearly 30 years, bringing a wealth of experience to her new role at Braeside.

Kitchen Manager Michelle Grover says she’s been a real asset. “She knows the dietary requirements, the menu, and has so much experience. It’s just made the whole transition a lot easier.”

Since introducing the fresh cook food, the number of plates going back untouched has dramatically decreased, with many patients complimenting the hospital on its fresh, tasty food.

The fresh cook kitchen has been a dream realised by the hard work of many local community groups including Rotary and Lions, Chinese associations, Vietnamese community groups, the Italian community, schools, council, businesses and charitable foundations that have all fundraised for the project.

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Research Report 2016