Call for release of SDHB food contract

Clare Curran
Clare Curran
Dunedin South MP Clare Curran has called for the Compass Group hospital food contract to be released, saying there is high public interest in the controversial 15-year deal.

Compass is being consulted on an Otago Daily Times request to the Southern District Health Board for the contract document, the newspaper was told last week in response to the request lodged a month ago.

That meant a time extension allowing until June 3 before a response.

The ODT asked the board for the document signed with Compass, but the request was shunted to a joint-DHB entity called NZ Health Partnerships.

"A commercial and legal review of the contract is under way to identify parts of the contract that would be commercially prejudicial if disclosed.

"This review includes necessary consultation with Compass Group NZ as part of the decision-making process,'' NZ Health Partnerships' response says.

Compass would also be consulted on an ODT request for recalculated financial saving figures, and the key performance indicators (KPIs) by which the company is monitored.

These are both still being "finalised'', NZ Health Partnerships says.

Ms Curran said the contract and other requested information should be released, if necessary with commercially sensitive parts withheld.

"I expect that contract to be released very soon. Clearly there's a high degree of public interest,'' she said.

Ms Curran suggested the ODT might consider complaining to the Office of the Ombudsman if it was kept under wraps.

In recent months, the food service has been rocked by staff and patient complaints, a public protest and petition, and internal concerns for staff safety in mental health wards.

Ms Curran strongly questioned why it was taking so long to finalise and release the key performance indicators and said she had received conflicting information about them in response to her own queries.

It is more than six months since the Compass Group took over the board's food service.

"[The DHB] should be required to publicly release the KPIs and report regularly on whether those KPIs are being met, because of the public interest,'' Ms Curran said.

The contract needed intensive monitoring from a commissioner level, Ms Curran said.

The savings for Southern DHB of $6.96million over 15 years depends partly on the number of health boards participating in the shared contract.

It is possible the financial savings could suffer because only seven health boards thus far have entered the contract.

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