Patient 'denied water' as hospital nutrition a priority for Harris
Allegations of a hospital patient being "denied drinking water" are among the complaints about poor nutrition and hydration made to the patient safety watchdog Hiqa.
Other complaints claim frail patients lost more weight due to poor hospital food, while another received "no assistance" when they needed to drink water.
Catering staff were also unable to provide a patient with edible light foods, the complaints seen by the Irish Independent under Freedom of Information rules revealed.
The patient concerns have emerged as newly appointed Health Minister Simon Harris promises improving hospital nutrition and food will be among his priorities.
Hiqa has estimated one in four patients is already malnourished when admitted to hospital.
And they can become even more ill and lose weight during their stay, slowing their recovery.
The patient safety body is carrying out unannounced inspections of hospitals to rate the quality of meals served to patients and will publish the first independent findings.
Other complaints made to Hiqa include allegations of rude catering staff.
These grievances were often accompanied by other concerns about patient exposure to infection risk, loss of dignity in having to share a cubicle and unclean physical surroundings.
Irish dietitians said the highest risk of disease-related malnutrition is associated with gastrointestinal conditions, while those who have respiratory disease are also in danger.
People aged 65 and over are five times more likely to be malnourished, compared with younger adults.
The annual cost of disease-related malnutrition to Ireland is estimated to be in the region of €1.5bn.
It leads to depletion of body protein, glycogen, minerals and micronutrients, increased length of hospital stay, higher risk of hospital mortality as well as further complications, such as delayed healing of wounds.
Other costs include patients having to pay more visits to their GP and having a lower quality of life.