Dine in, carry out
Hospitals deliver delectable dinner before patients take babies home
Trent and Chelsea Blickenstaff had their first dinner as new parents Aug. 7. They figured they would just eat regular hospital food, but then they heard about one of the perks new parents get at both of the Grand Junction hospitals.
Those who deliver babies at both St. Mary’s Hospital and Community Hospital have their choice of a nice meal that can include salmon, a vegetarian dish or the most popular, a steak and shrimp surf and turf.
“We didn’t even know about the dinner until yesterday morning,” Trent said the day after their meal.
It comes as a pleasant surprise to many new parents, but the meal is one example of how both hospitals are focused on customer service as they try to attract expectant mothers.
For many years, St. Mary’s was the only hospital where mothers could deliver in Grand Junction, but once Community added labor and delivery in March 2016, both can now compete for business.
It was shortly after that when St. Mary’s resumed its celebration dinner for new parents after discontinuing it for a time.
Since then, Community has delivered more than 750 babies, while St. Mary’s averages about 1,400 per year.
“They were always well-received,” said Cathy Roberts, director of women’s and children’s services at St. Mary’s Hospital, who added that the service resumed a little more than a year ago. “It’s quite a life event to have a baby. It’s a time for celebration.”
At Community Hospital, new parents get a menu and can choose several different options for the multiple-course meal. A table and candles are brought into the mother’s room, and nurses care for the baby while the parents eat.
Nurse Mandy Peretti said she feels the meal has brought people in.
“We’ve had people who had their previous kid elsewhere and they came here for this,” she said. “It’s a little mini date night. They’ve been at the hospital, and isn’t it nice to sit at a table?”
Both hospitals offer options for families to take their meal home if they are going to be discharged early.
According to St. Mary’s labor and delivery clinical nurse manager Jaina Muhlestein, most, like the Blickenstaffs, are caught off guard.
“I think the families are a little surprised,” Muhlestein said. “They didn’t know this was coming or they’re surprised at the quality of food or the presentation.
The idea of a celebration meal may be a new concept to those delivering now at hospitals in Grand Junction, but for some older generations, they remember when it was the norm.
Community nurse and birthplace director Lori Glazer said she remembered hearing about it from her mother.
“When I was young my mom always talked about having a delivery meal and it went away,” Glazer said.
Both hospitals offer an array of services for expectant mothers, including jetted tubs for water birth at Community and nitrous oxide for pain moderation at both hospitals, but the fine dining experience remains the only thing not related to childbirth or care after the birth.
According to Community’s executive chef Karl Stephens, his kitchen staff takes great pride in preparing the meals and feels they can help provide a moment of peace after an emotional experience. It also gives a better reputation to hospital food.
“The good thing about food is, a little bit like that goes a long way. It might cost us $5 to $6, but for the family it’s worth a lot more,” he said. “Food in a place, when talking about a hospital, it’s a pretty inexpensive way to get a little upper edge. It’s something they won’t forget.”
Whether these meals attract customers to deliver their babies at one hospital over another is difficult to gauge.
Some insurance providers mandate that clients visit one hospital while other people decide for reasons such as convenience.
Trent Blickenstaff said St. Mary’s was closer to home. Chelsea added that both she and her husband were born at St. Mary’s and thought it would be a nice story to have their son there as well.
For Community Hospital CEO Chris Thomas, whether the meal is a draw doesn’t matter; it’s just good customer service, in his opinion.
“It’s such a wonderful time, and it’s a way for us to say thank you before you spend your last night in the hospital. It’s a way to celebrate the moment, and it’s been so well-received,” Thomas said. “It’s a little something to give back in the big picture of things.”