A national group that advocates on behalf of doctors is still not lovin’ the fact that Tarrant County’s John Peter Smith Hospital has a McDonald’s.
The Washington-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a 12,000-member nonprofit which promotes preventive medicine, has placed ads inside the T’s fleet of 134 buses that carry a subtle yet hard-hitting message, urging JPS and other hospitals to go fast food free. The campaign will run until Sept. 6.
JPS has had a McDonald’s restaurant in its hospital at 1500 S. Main St. since 1992. In recent years, the hospital has come under fire from groups that contend the fast food giant’s menu has too many high-calorie, high-fat items that are bad for your health.
Physicians Committee, which has more than 100 members in Dallas-Fort Worth, is stressing heart health in its campaign. It last went after JPS in 2015. The latest ad campaign doesn’t name JPS, yet it urges readers to ask “your local hospital” to go #FastFoodFree. “Your Heart’s Not Lovin’ Those Cheeseburgers,” it says.
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“Most people will get we’re making fun of the McDonald’s slogan,” said Jeanne McVey, a Physicians Committee spokeswoman. “It definitely gets the message across. Obviously, fast food in hospitals, we think, sends the wrong message.”
JPS is the only local hospital with a McDonald’s. Texas Health and HCA Hospitals in Fort Worth have Subway sandwich shops.
JPS is one of three hospitals targeted this summer by the Physicians Committee. The others are Navicent Health Hospital in Macon, Ga., and Broward Health Medical Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. In Georgia, the group put an ad in bus shelters.
Most people will get we’re making fun of the McDonald’s slogan. Obviously, fast food in hospitals, we think, sends the wrong message.
Jeanne McVey, a Physicians Committee spokeswoman
The McDonald’s lease at JPS expires in two years. McVey said the group is urging JPS to not renew the lease, but also exercise a clause that allows the hospital, with proper notice, to take over the McDonald’s space for its own use.
In 2012, 26 hospitals in the U.S. had McDonald’s as a food option, according to published reports. Today, that number stands at 12, according to the Physicians Committee, including Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, which is owned by Harris County. Earlier this year, Physicians Committee ran a billboard campaign there urging the health provider to close the McDonald’s when its lease expires in September. The hospital has a five-year extension that could take the lease into 2022.
The hospital district received nearly $130,000 from sales at the McDonald’s location for the Harris County Hospital District Foundation, the Houston Chronicle reported in April. The JPS Foundation has a similar setup here and receives a percentage of McDonald’s sales, also believed to be in the six figures, which is used for its philanthropic works.
Lee Crosby, a registered dietician representing the Physicians Committee, is scheduled to speak to the JPS board on Thursday. Crosby said Tuesday she’ll offer data that shows the ill effects that fast food can have on a person’s health, including that the risk for heart disease increases 50 percent by eating fast food two or three times a week.
The board will not respond.
J.R. Labbe, JPS Hospital spokeswoman
JPS spokeswoman J.R. Labbe said the group is “more than welcome” to speak and will be given three minutes to address the board, the same amount of time given to other speakers. “The board will not respond,” Labbe said.
JPS renewed its contract with McDonald’s in 2013, but made stipulations in the contract for healthier food preparation and options. The restaurant is open 22 hours a day. The hospital has added food truck options from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. for its employees and visitors.
Crosby said she applauds JPS for recent upgrades to its kitchens that allow the hospital to offer more menu items that are healthful, including vegetarian choices. But, she said, people look to their local hospital for guidance on adopting a healthier lifestyle, including good nutrition. She said she will ask the hospital board to expand its cafeteria and increase the number of healthy, plant-based options.
“John Peter Smith Hospital has the potential to become a leader in preventing diet-related diseases in Tarrant County,” she said. “However, there is one change the hospital should consider making to its food environment.”
It’s asking Tarrant County residents to sign an online petition to JPS CEO Robert Earley at pcrm.org/MakeHospitalFoodHealthy.
12 Number of U.S. hospitals still with a McDonald’s restaurant
Arlington-based Texas Health Resources, which owns several hospitals in the area, including Texas Health Fort Worth and Texas Health Arlington Memorial, has two hospitals with fast food restaurants— Chick Fil A and Subway at Texas Health Dallas and Subway at Texas Health Fort Worth.
The hospital said it worked with the Chick Fil A franchise to make sure it offered healthy options, including grilled chicken. And the Fort Worth hospital offers Cramer Cafe, a Blue Zones Project-approved restaurant, under the city’s health initiative, said spokeswoman Aleshia Howe.
“Texas Health has had other fast food offerings in our hospitals in past years, but as we move toward overall well-being and offering healthier options for consumers and employees alike, we have put more effort into the creation of healthy options within our cafeterias in recent years,” Howe said. “Our most recent wholly-owned hospital to open, Texas Health Alliance, opened without a fryer and continues to operate without one today.”
Medical City Healthcare’s four Tarrant County hospitals all have cafeterias, and only its location on Eighth Avenue in Fort Worth has a Subway, said spokeswoman Janet St. James.