DHB member speaks out over outsourcing plan

A Southern District Health Board member has spoken out against the kitchen outsourcing proposal, saying it will not serve the interests of the health board or the community.

Mary Gamble, of Central Otago, says she is voting against the controversial 15-year deal today, but does not expect much support around the table.

Board member Dr John Chambers said he was voting against it, and was also pessimistic about the likely outcome.

Mrs Gamble said: ‘‘I am very clear in my thinking that it's not in the long-term interests of the Southern District Health Board.

‘‘We're going out to the community to ask them to take a 5% cut in the funding of [health] contracts.

‘‘We want them to engage with us. Voting for this is not endearing us to the public, but that's not my main reason for voting against it.

‘‘My main reason is I'm not convinced that we will see the savings promised. I don't believe Compass is incentivised, the whole way it's set up . . . to deliver savings to us,'' Mrs Gamble said.

‘‘My feeling is the majority of [board members] will vote for [outsourcing].''

The deal would result in the Compass Group taking over hospital kitchens in Dunedin and Invercargill, saving the cash-strapped health board $7 million over 15 years.

Board members are gagged from public comment on agenda items ahead of meetings, but the outsourcing proposal has created unusual levels of public disquiet and opposition.

Board members Dr Branko Sijnja and Neville Cook said they had not decided yet. Tim Ward, Kaye Crowther and Richard Thomson declined to discuss it.

Tuari Potiki, Tony Hill and chairman Joe Butterfield could not be contacted.

Sandra Cook does not permit direct contact from media.

The meeting is today at Wakari Hospital, in Dunedin, at 9am, where board members are to be met by protesters.

Simon Smith, organiser of the ‘‘Stop Dunedin Hospital from being downgraded'' Facebook page, which has 13,400 ‘‘likes'', said people were gathering at 8.30am outside the hospital.

The public will be excluded from the meeting when board members discuss the outsourcing because of ‘‘commercial sensitivity''.

Before the public have to leave, board members will hear from the Service and Food Workers' Union about a counterproposal to the outsourcing, and will receive a petition.

Up to 20% of kitchen workers could lose their job if the move goes ahead. Meals on wheels will be trucked to the South from Auckland, while patient meals will be assembled using preprepared food trucked around New Zealand.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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