Union representatives Karena Kelland (left) and Anna
Huffstutler address health board members. Photo by Peter
Fourteen months after a controversial plan was revealed,
southern hospital kitchen staff have demanded answers about
their jobs at a Southern District Health Board meeting in
Service and Food Workers Union members presented a petition
to yesterday's board meeting, with about 1000 signatures
calling for a privatisation proposal to be stopped.
Union delegate Karena Kelland, who works at Southland
Hospital, told board members kitchen workers did not know
what was happening.
The presentation focused on the lack of information, and the
long delay in Dunedin and Invercargill staff being told
whether their jobs were safe.
The privatisation proposal, from Health Benefits Ltd (HBL),
an entity established by the Government to cut costs,
affected patients and local food suppliers, as well as staff,
The workers tried to present to last month's meeting, but
their request was denied.
Chief executive Carole Heatly and patient services director
Lexie O'Shea both told board members communication with
affected staff would now improve.
Mrs Heatly said staff sometimes misunderstood when they saw
HBL items on public meeting agendas, assuming it affected
There were many HBL projects under way in different areas and
they were all at different stages, she said.
Even when there was nothing to pass on from HBL about the
kitchen project, staff would now be kept in the loop, the
senior managers assured members.
Board member Neville Cook said staff believed the proposal
was driven by the board and could be stopped by it, but that
It was not in the board's control. Member Tuari Potiki said
kitchen staff were among the lower paid health staff, and the
lack of communication could make them feel they were not
Chairman Joe Butterfield said the board had been trying to
talk HBL into changes to its kitchen proposal, and that had
HBL's plans to centralise most hospital kitchen food
production to mega-hubs in Auckland and Christchurch under a
sole provider caused an outcry when revealed in April last
However, little of substance appears to have happened since
to move it towards implementation.
At present health boards make their own arrangements for food
services, some delivering it in-house and others outsourcing