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Christus GSMC Marshall food options questioned

By Caleb Brabham
June 17, 2017 at 4 a.m.

A concession vendor outside of CGSM, pictured on June 8, has caused some controversy over the hospital's health options for employees.

Though bright signs advertising corn dogs and funnel cakes generally elicit smiles and laughter, the emotions a concession vendor, parked beside Christus Good Shepherd Medical Center in Marshall, has garnered have been quite the opposite.

"I think it's morally reprehensible," Amanda Smith, co-founder of Get Healthy Marshall. "I'm horrified and I'm saddened because the hospital is supposed to represent health.

"From an economic standpoint it makes sense to me because they're going to get more business. But from an ethical standpoint, I think it's a violation of public trust. I think their employees deserve better. I think … visitors deserve better because if it's served at a hospital they assume (the food) is healthy."

The vendor has been one of several food vendors that have catered for CGSM employees and visitors since its café and cafeteria closed in fall 2016.

Chief Nursing Officer Keith Kirbow said though the current vendor prominently features nachos, corn dogs and funnel cakes in its marketing, it also provides healthy options on its menu.

"That food stand also offers fresh fruit, yogurt, chicken salad sandwiches. … It's a general food vendor that provides quite a few different options," Kirbow said, adding all of the food vendors the hospital has used have also given healthy options to their customers.

"This is the third or the fourth vendor we've used during the time our kitchen has been under renovation," Kirbow said. "Each one of them have offered many different options including a breakfast menu. It gives our employees something onsite with different options."

Kirbow said this was one of many options the hospital offered its visitors and employees.

"We also have cold storage vending options available in house that have different choices including lean meals as well," Kirbow said.

Kirbow said CGSM takes its commitment to health very seriously, especially when it comes to patient diets.

Though vendors are available for employees and visitors, patients still receive dietician prepared meals onsite.

According to Clinical Nutrition Dietician Kelli Dominick, hospital menus for patients are developed by a registered dietician and based on criteria of the National Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"Basically every diet has a spreadsheet that has all of the nutritional values on that diet. We have a regular menu for a regular diet and it is broken into vitamins, minerals, proteins carbs and fat. These are developed from a computer system a dietician has signed off on it. All of our patient menus are nutritionally adequate and based on dietary guidelines … we have to make sure we are meeting 100 percent of out patient's needs."

Dominick said while the hospital is under strict dietary guidelines for serving patients, no hospital is required to administer the same guidelines when serving its employees.

"I don't know of any hospital (that does)," Dominick said. "There are several hospitals that have a McDonalds in them or Chick-fil-a. We have choices. As an employee you do not have to eat what we have … at the end of the day everyone has a choice. "

Smith said though she appreciates the healthy choices, she is concerned what message the concession stand sends to the general public.

"I think it's great that they have healthy options, but I think they need to advertise those better because if you look at (the vendor) it just looks like an advertisement for junk food at the hospital," Smith said.

GSMC responded by stating though the signage may not seem appealing, the vendors should be judged by what they sell.

"While some of the food truck's exterior signage may not reflect healthy options, they do in fact offer an extensive menu with a variety of grilled and fresh selections including fish, chicken, salad and fruit," CGSM Marketing/PR Specialist Erin Hassell issued in a statement.

Hassell said during the kitchen renovation, all of the cooking, food storage and dishwashing for the patients has taken place in specialized trailers located outside the hospital. The patient tray assembly line was relocated to a hospital conference room and patient meals have not been interrupted. The rennovations are expected to be completed by the end of this summer.

"We appreciate everyone's patience while renovations are underway and look forward to reopening our café later this summer," Hassell said.

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