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June 2, 2016

McDonald’s and US Hospitals

by Anne Paddock

You have to hand it to McDonald’s for getting their fast food inside hospitals. Having a fast food chain like McDonald’s in a hospital is like having a candy store in the American Diabetes Association headquarters or a liquor store in a building that hosts AA meetings. When I was growing up, there was a word – nimrod – for someone who did something stupid or for someone who was inept. But allowing McDonald’s within the walls of US hospitals goes deeper than that.

On the one hand, hospitals are here to treat the ill, many of whom become sick because of a diet high in calories, saturated fats, refined carbohydrates, sugar, and sodium but low in fiber and nutrients – and they generally do a good job temporally fixing ailments like heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes with medication and surgery – but you have to ask yourself:  How far will hospitals go to get repeat customers? Call me radical but hospitals focused on health should model and encourage healthy choices instead of the very food that contributes to these diseases.McDonald's_Mercy_Hospital

So, maybe there is another reason McDonald’s restaurants are in hospitals because I hear doctors complain all the time and they blame the administration – the people running the hospital who are paid exorbitant salaries to focus on how much money can be made in the healthcare business. And, honestly after looking at dozens of IRS Form 990’s (the tax returns that non-profit hospitals have to file and make publicly available), I tend to agree. CEO’s, Presidents, Chief Financial Officers and even Human Resource Directors are paid salaries that range from the hundreds of thousands to millions and millions.  The general public would probably agree that a hospital administrator can make $1 million instead of $1.3 million (and that is on the low side as there are CEO’s that make upwards of $5 million annually) and go with a less profitable but more nutritious food service.

When questioned, hospitals use many arguments to support their decision to house a McDonald’s on the premises and their reasons read like they came out of the mouth of a slick Madison Avenue marketing executive (not that I have anything against these marketing and public relation gurus; they actually are very good at what they do):

Provides a familiar place in an unfamiliar culture:  No doubt hospitals are unfamiliar territory and stressful. All the more reason to provide affordable and familiar food that will nourish the body and not contribute to illness. There are many chains that provide familiar, more nutritious and tastier food options than McDonald’s.

McDonald’s sponsored family/sleep rooms for parents and families to have a restful place to be close to their children. McDonald’s deserves kudos for their Ronald McDonald’s houses but somehow I don’t think their motives are completely altruistic.  They target children with unhealthy food options and this is shameful. But the bottom line is that just because an organization does something good doesn’t mean they get a free pass in the nutrition department.

From time to time, they will run a special percentage of items sold to be donated to a hospital department. If McDonald’s runs a special on certain menu items (let’s say the Extra Value Meal (a Big Mac, french fries, and a coke that contains a total of  1,330 calories,  52 grams of fat, 1,260 grams of sodium, and  85 grams of sugar) well then I think they should donate all the proceeds and more to the patients. After all, the only real beneficiaries are McDonald’s, the cardiologists and the endocrinologist.Extra_Value_Meal_McDonalds

Hours of service are extended before and after cafeteria service hours providing food service for customers and employees in our community. McDonald’s is not the only restaurant that can offer hours or service before and after cafeteria service. And, McDonald’s providing room service to patients, customers, and employees is also a service that can be provided by any number of restaurants.Mercy-Hospital

There really is no reason for a McDonald’s to be in a hospital or medical center. Seven major hospitals – The Cleveland Clinic (Ohio), Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (California), Memorial Regional Hospital (Florida), Abbott Northeastern Hospital (Minnesota), Driscoll Children’s Hospital (Texas), Riley Children’s Hospital (Indiana), Truman Medical Center (Missouri) – have ended their contractual arrangement with McDonald’s recently but there are still some major hospitals that continue to house McDonald’s within their healthcare premises, including:

  1. MCG Health Children’s Medical Center, Augusta, GA; 706-721-0211;
  2. Northside Hospital, Atlanta, GA; 404-851-8000;
  3. Naval Medical Center, San Diego, CA; 619-532-6400;
  4. Jackson Memorial Hospital, Miami, FL; 305-585-1111;
  5. Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, IA;  515-247-4422;
  6. Broward General Medical Center, Fort Lauderdale, FL;954-355-4400;
  7. Memorial Regional Hospital, Hollywood, FL; 954-987-2000;
  8. Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago, IL;  312-227-4000;
  9. Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta, GA; 404-616-1000;
  10. Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego, CA; 858-576-1700;
  11. Ben Taub Hospital, Houston, TX;  713-873-2000;
  12. Methodist Rehabilitation Center, Jackson, MS; 800-223-6672;
  13. Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, TX; 832-824-1000;
  14. Tampa General Hospital, Tampa, FL;  813-844-7000;
  15. Kosair Children’s Hospital, Louisville, KY; 502-629-8086;
  16. John Peter Hospital, Fort Worth, TX; 817-702-3431;
  17. University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson. MS;  601-984-1000;

Three of the above hospitals (#’s 4, 6, and 15) were included in the Five Worst Heart Hospital Food Environments by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in February, 2016. Two of the hospitals  (#’s 9 and 15) are currently seeking other bids from food vendors although the McDonald’s are still operating within the hospitals.

So what can you do? Call or click on the links above and voice your displeasure with having a McDonald’s in these medical facilities. It doesn’t matter if you live in the hospital location or not since many of the above facilities are owned by national non-profits who are often located in other states and own multiple medical facilities all over the country.

You can also click on the following link to sign a petition asking Mercy Hospital in Des Moines, Iowa to get rid of McDonald’s.

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