Schemes to enhance hospital kitchen throughput were put on
hold to make way for the ''big grand scheme'' of centralised
food production, but no-one quite knows when it will take
shape, the Service and Food Workers Union says.
District health boards are still awaiting a business case
from the Government-owned entity that devised the scheme,
revealed last April, which is designed to save more than $10
million a year.
It involved possibly setting up mega kitchens in Christchurch
and Auckland, but details have not been confirmed.
Some meal preparation would still take place locally.
A business case was now expected around April, SFWU national
secretary John Ryall said yesterday.
However, his ''gut feeling'' was that the controversial plan
was quietly on hold, at least until after the general
Food efficiency schemes under way in New Zealand hospitals
were put on hold by health boards to await Health Benefits
Ltd's ''big grand scheme'', which meant lost opportunities to
find savings, he said.
SFWU Dunedin Hospital kitchen delegate Cathryn Herd said
workers were told recently by the health board they might
know more about the process by the middle of the year.
''They keep saying to us `when we hear something, we'll come
and tell you'.''
She understood any job losses would be minimal, which helped
keep workers' spirits up.
''We just keep plugging along as we are,'' Mrs Herd said.
The Southern District Health Board refers queries about the
process to Health Benefits Ltd (HBL).
For months, the Otago Daily Times has sought
correspondence between the board and HBL under the Official
In September, the board advised the correspondence, spanning
seven months, would cost $9044 to collate.
Following advice from the Office of the Ombudsman, the
request was narrowed to correspondence between HBL and board
chief executive Carole Heatly.
Last week, the board said it was withholding information
because of commercial sensitivity and to allow free and frank
expression between officials, apart from three documents
unrelated to the hospital kitchen plan.
Asked if he was concerned about the delay, Health Minister
Tony Ryall said through a spokesman: ''I am advised HBL is
still discussing the business case with unions, DHBs and a
panel of expert nutritionists.''
''The top priority in the proposal is to improve food
quality. Nothing will happen unless improving the quality of
food and good nutrition can be assured.''
HBL communications manager Mark Reynolds said the next step
was to present a business case to HBL's own board, which was
''still planned for early this year'', after which it would
be released to health board chief executives.
''Any speculation on the content or outcome of that is not