Lessons in Preparation and Proactivity in Nutrition Operations

Eric Eisenberg
Roseann Hoeye

By Eric Eisenberg, Director of Dining Services, Rogue Valley Manor and Roseann Hoeye, Nutrition Advisory Specialist, Intalere

In any sort of disruptive situation, the ability to successfully respond is quite dependent on proactive preparation initially, as well as swift and definitive decision making and the ability to adapt as circumstances most certainly change. The situation we encountered with the onset of COVID-19 at Rogue Valley Manor, a senior living community in southern Oregon that is home to nearly 1,000 residents, offers some lessons for our nutrition organization, but also in general when it comes to preparedness planning.

Stay Proactive and Adaptive – As in any emergency situation, it is critical to stay informed, and be able to adapt as quickly as possible. Because our facility has a sister organization in the Seattle area that was facing their challenges slightly ahead of our timeline, we were able to stay current and even in some cases ahead of mandates. Leadership was swift to close dining and common areas and we moved to delivery the very next day. We started with essential services only, and then let out small enhancements of service over time to keep some positive momentum.

Employee Safety (Physically and Mentally) – Your human resources are always your most important asset. It’s critical to make sure they feel their value and true essential role in helping to sustain lives and livelihoods. We tried to make sure that staff felt they were safer in the facilities than anywhere else. We instituted temperature screenings, regular checkpoints and mask distributions. We reminded staff of the multitude of services available through our employee assistance program. We posted signage related to hand hygiene and awareness of symptoms everywhere, closed the employee café and segregated staff to specific work locations, all for the safety of the workers as well as the residents.

Labor and Staffing – We have not seen an impact to staff the way that other healthcare sectors are now experiencing. For those not needed in dining we looked to deploy to other departments as appropriate, offered basic caregiving classes, provided other cross-training and relied on exempt employees to fill gaps in support, in an effort to mitigate any staff reduction.

Supply Chain – Interruptions to supply delivery schedules were a predictable by-product of the shutdown, and we made sure to be in constant contact with our suppliers/distributors to help mitigate those. Immediately stocking up on disposables, to-go containers, etc. was extremely helpful for us. A menu redesign to somewhat limit items minimized impact to some degree as well. This is also an excellent opportunity to utilize your group purchasing organization in terms of finding alternate suppliers and products if the need arises.

One thing that this pandemic has brought forth is that no matter how well prepared you feel you are, you can never plan for every eventuality. In any crisis, you will be faced with situations or challenges you could not foresee. I truly feel we’ve done the best we could under the circumstances, but nearly every decision requires some sort of post-evaluation to determine what lessons can be learned and what can be done better for the next time.

The main focus must remain on the safety and well-being of residents/patients and caregivers. And while many of the decisions and situations we faced, and continue to face, bring discomfort and inconvenience, remaining kind and compassionate, with an eye toward the greater good, will help us to come out much better on the other end.

We Can Help

Intalere, the healthcare industry leader in delivering solutions designed for improved financial, operational and clinical health for our partners, can help with any of your healthcare nutrition and environmental service needs. Please reach out to us for more information and to see how we can help. Contact Customer Service at 877-711-5600 or customerservice@intalere.com or your Intalere representative.

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