MST Week is aimed at raising staff awareness of the importance of the Malnutrition Screening Tool. This follows a Nutrition Snapshot Day our dietitians conducted last year that revealed 25 percent of Warrnambool Base Hospital inpatients assessed that day were malnourished. This statistic mirrors similar data collected by hospitals Victoria-wide.
Malnutrition develops when our bodies don’t get the right amount of the nutrients we need to maintain healthy tissues and organ function. There’s a number of causes of malnutrition, including some diseases, loss of appetite, nausea, reduced food and drink intake, social isolation, loss of taste and smell, and difficulties swallowing and chewing food. The risk of malnutrition is greater in the elderly population, for people with chronic illness, for people who have financial difficulties, and for people who are homeless.
Senior clinical dietitian Fontaine Portelli says malnutrition in patients can increase length of stay, delay wound healing, increase functional decline, increase risk of falls, and increase infection risk.
‘Given the fact that we know that 25 percent of our inpatients are malnourished, the need to complete the MST on admission is very important in order to identify these patients early,’ she explains.
Patients identified to be at risk of malnutrition are then referred to the Nutrition and Dietetics Unit for further assessment and management.
The Malnutrition Screening Tool is a component of SWH’s Inpatient Health Assessment Form, as well as its Chemotherapy Screening Tool. It should be completed within 24 hours of a patient’s admission to hospital, and for longer-stay patients should be completed weekly.
It consists of three simple questions:
Additional to the Malnutrition Screening Tool, SWH has a number of measures in place to help prevent malnutrition once patients are admitted to hospital. These include referring patients screened to be at-risk of malnutrition to our Nutrition and Dietetics Unit, providing high-energy meals and snacks and supplement drinks, and identifying those who need assistance with feeding or opening food packages to make sure they are able to eat their meals.
South West Healthcare’s first MST Week runs until Friday evening.