A Q&A with Patrick LaMont, President of AHF-NY
As we continue to monitor developments regarding COVID-19 and the impact on our industry, we know it’s more important than ever to connect with our healthcare and hospital foodservice colleagues who are impacted with the live experiences and to understand the challenges that come along during this crisis.
We want to share accurate information and understand the hurdles that your colleagues in healthcare and hospital foodservice are facing during this time. We are thankful to Patrick LaMont for his time during this crisis. He has shared his leadership insights and strategies on feeding the community of patients and staff with our readers. LaMont leads over 122 members as the President of the Association for Healthcare Foodservice of New York (AHFNY).
Does AHF have a new plan for foodservice? What has been recommended for rolling out emergency programs?
Yes, we do have a new plan. We believe every foodservice director must have a new plan as the COVID-19 has created a new normal for everyone. Governor Cuomo has asked that all hospitals increase their bed capacity by 100% and, to provide the necessary staffing needs to meet this demand.
Are you increasing your staff at this time?
No, not at this time but soon. Once all the locations have been identified to meet the new bed capacity to accommodate the surge capacity anticipated, we will be ready to go. Many members at their sites currently Cook-Chill, however, we discussed converting to Cook-Serve during this COVID-19 emergency or stay Cook-Chill. Unfortunately, making this change would come with a new set of challenges. It will probably be more disruptive to staff than it needs to be.
Are your foodservice broker and distribution partners providing what your hospital needs during this time?
Our distributors have been amazing doing everything to meet our needs. We as managers understand that all healthcare and hospital foodservice are in the same boat. It’s imperative that our distributers put controls in place to make sure some of us do not panic, do not over order, do not hoard by ordering excessive amounts that could leave others without. We are in this together. Vendors such as US Foods and Imperial Dade are truly our partners and have been working amazingly hard to meet our needs. It is a little frustrating when you cannot get the amounts, you’re ordering but, because of this we put options 2-3 deep in place just in case we cannot get what I want.
Tell us about the changes members are making to their retail areas.
Sales have declined in the retail areas, but that is to be expected due to sick calls and some of the changes made in the cafeterias such as moving to grab and go and everything individually packaged. We shut down our salad bars and now make pre-packaged salads and sandwiches. Surprisingly enough, many of our customers love the changes and asked us to keep serving this way when we return to normal business, whatever that was, as this may be the new normal.
Do your members have a different approach to menus during this time?
With the exception of the retail area, the menus remain the same thus far, however we’ve had to make changes to protect our employees serving the patients on the floor and working in the dish room. We had to create status on our diet order sheets to identify two new groups of patients:
- Group 1 – COVID-19 +/-
- Group 2 – PUI or Patient under investigation
Our members made the decision to place both groups on disposable due to the difficulty of identifying these two groups if they were on regular trays.
Are you able to stay sanitary and not ditch your environmental goals during this crisis? If so, have you implemented any new procedures?
Our members had very good cleaning procedures and a master cleaning schedule previously. So, we all simply stuck with that I do believe our new normal will eventually force us to implement lessons learned from this pandemic.
You guys get your share of hurricanes and disasters. Is COVID-19 uncharted waters for you?
It could be! I think we have to see how we all come thru with our surge capacity of beds. There are pieces of equipment that will be needed. Also, additional staffing and re-engineering, especially on our part, as we run two different food delivery systems both of which are Cook-Chill. So, re-engineering may require adding another trayline in the kitchen.
What are you looking to take for from this to make your return to our “regularly scheduled programming”?
I think it will allow us to use this as fresh eyes. It is making us think outside of the box and to actually come out of this more efficient than before. Our members’ employees and management teams have a lot of great ideas. I’m looking forward to working with them through this emergency.
As President of AHF-NY, LaMont offered words of encouragement and asked his members to share suggestions for their community.
I believe everyone is on the same path. But just in case, we should share with everyone what we are doing during this Pandemic.
- Share best practices and challenges as well as recommendations for both.
- Share the expanded role we may be asked to step into. This includes ordering COVID-19 supplies and storage for your organization and leveraging those contacts for masks, gloves, gowns, face shields, truck rental and multiple facilities to meet your department’s needs. We’re all competing for the same resources so, we all need to look beyond our own scope of services.
- Share our knowledge and be a conduit for each other because, what you share could be the difference between success and failure. Look on the AHF National website to see if there is something there you can apply and share. Reach out to the resources AHF may have even if it is just in case (your back-up), don’t wait until you think you need it, do your due diligence.
- Remember many of the vendors are our business partners. They’re going through the same challenges. So be patient and respectful as they’re committed to meet your needs and they understand your situation. They are working very hard to be there for all of us. I’ve been on the phone with them and so have many of you.