Hospitals get antsy about leasing space to fast-food chains

McDonald’s has space in the Cleveland Clinic. (AP photo)

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture decides what to suggest about junk food in schools, hospitals are likewise at a crossroads, with many administrators feeling conflicted about housing fast-food chains in their facilities.

At Truman Medical Center in Kansas City, the cafeteria features low-fat meals, on the other side of a wall from a McDonald’s. CEO John Bluford said the golden arches send “an inconsistent message” to patients, staff and community because of the unhealthy offerings, but Truman agreed to a 25-year contract with the chain in 1992 “at a time when the financial benefit of having a stable food-service client in the hospital outweighed any potential health concerns,” reports Elana Gordon for NPR.

Getting out of these contracts can be tricky. The Cleveland Clinic tried to end its agreement with McDonald’s 10 years ago, but the restaurant remains in operation. “We’re just going to live with it,” said Bill Barum, director of hospitality and retail services. “When the contract ends, we’ll have the opportunity to reexamine the space.”

Of the 14,000 McDonald’s in the country, there are 27 in hospitals, and officials say the restaurant’s menu can be tailored to health-conscious diners.

Some hospitals have five fast-food outlets, a survey by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine found. The report’s top five “worst hospital environments” housed at least one fast-food restaurant. “In this day and age, you would think a hospital might be proud enough, if not shamed enough, to cut or end these contracts with fast-food outlets,” said Susan Levin, a dietitian with PCRM.

But while some hospitals are looking to end fast-food contracts, some are signing them, including the Texas Medical Center‘s St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and the Medical University of South Carolina University Hospital, where Chick-fil-A is  open for business. (Read more)

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