District health boards have no control over plans to give
their patients ''cheaper, fattier mince'', because that is what
the Minister of Health presumably wants, Southern DHB member
Richard Thomson says.
Mr Thomson made the comment in response to revelations at the
weekend that plans to save money on hospital food involve
giving patients fattier mince from next year.
Meanwhile, it was unclear last night what a major change to
the hospital food proposal meant for Dunedin.
Government entity Health Benefits Ltd has dropped its plan
for a mega kitchen in Christchurch, but HBL declined to
confirm that food would come from Auckland.
The New Zealand Herald reported at the weekend that
outside Auckland, hospital meals would no longer be cooked
fresh but would be delivered in components for cooking or
Mr Thomson said hospital food was just one of the areas
health boards no longer controlled.
''If HBL want everyone to eat cheaper, fattier mince, then
that's what they will get.
''Of course if the [Minister of Health] wanted everyone to
eat healthier mince then he could do to HBL what he has
already done to the boards and tell them what is going to
''I can only assume that the minister is happy with fatty
mince, although that may be when it is being given to sick
people, rather than ministers.''
In response, Health Minister Tony Ryall said the programme
was about improving the quality of hospital food by using
''modern techniques'' and better use of resources through
co-operation between health boards.
''HBL is advised by an expert group of dietitians,'' he said.
Mr Ryall maintains health boards can decide whether to go
ahead with the programme, which is at odds with Mr Thomson's
insistence the boards have no control.
Mr Ryall, who is retiring at the September election, did not
respond to a question about whether he would be happy to eat
the fattier mince himself.
University of Otago dietitian Associate Prof Winsome Parnell
said when contacted she did not have enough information about
the proposal and what would be implemented to comment in
However, she would be concerned by a move to lower-grade
ingredients, because public institutions should model good
nutrition, which included using lean meat.
Food would be wasted if patients refused to eat meals they
did not like.
A move to inferior ingredients could see patients start to
rely on family members to provide food.
Families providing meals was problematic, including because
of hygiene standards, and some patients did not have family
who could provide for them.
The New Zealand Herald reported on Saturday that HBL's
nutrition advisory group had warned a raft of proposed
changes, including some that have been dropped, could lead to
patient malnutrition and even death.
As well as fattier mince, the 10g protein count for
sandwiches would include bread, and the minimum protein
delivered each day would drop from 90g to 80g, the
HBL yesterday issued a statement reiterating assurances the
new meals would be as good or better than the status quo.
The changes will save between $100 million and $120 million
over 15 years, HBL said.
Service and Food Workers Union Dunedin Hospital delegate
Cathryn Herd said yesterday the workers had been told there
would be no announcement on their jobs until after the
HBL spokesman Steve Fisher said last night he would be happy
to discuss potential job losses ''closer to October''.