Hospital cafe price rise backfires

Ian Powell.
Ian Powell.
A price rise for cafeteria food at all Southern hospitals last year has ''backfired'', a union head says, and disgruntled staff at Dunedin Hospital are eating elsewhere.

But the Southern District Health Board says although some staff were against the increase, the drop in revenue in the Dunedin cafe was due to the public being excluded.

Association of Salaried Medical Specialists executive director Ian Powell said the board management recently revealed the price increase for staff cafeteria food was forecast to bring an extra $50,000 in revenue.

However, since prices increased last year, fewer staff were using the cafeterias and revenue had fallen at least $41,000, Mr Powell said.

''All businesses have to balance between price and the impact on revenue and they got it wrong.''

In November, all staff were sent a report showing the board's progress in saving more than $15 million in health services.

At the time, chief executive Carole Heatly said the cafeteria prices had not been increased for at least five years and, after a review, were put in line with those of ''nearby businesses''.

Mr Powell said the canteen did not have a monopoly on the food market and Dunedin Hospital staff were bringing in their own food or were buying it from nearby businesses.

The increases had strained the relationship between management and staff; the management were perceived as ''scroungers'' and staff felt they were being taken advantage of, he said.

The board incorrectly believed it had a ''captive market'' but the resistance from staff showed the opposite, he said.

Management had made an ''error of judgement'' and should revert to the cheaper food prices, he said.

Board patient services executive director Lexie O'Shea said the prices were increased in April last year across all hospital cafeterias at Southland, Wakari and Dunedin Hospitals.

''The price of many items had not been increased for a considerable time and the cost of food products had increased significantly. We are aware that some staff initially did not support the increases.''

The revenue from the Dunedin Hospital cafe had fallen in the past two years but the drop coincided with restricting the cafes to staff only and excluding the public.

The Wakari cafe was on budget and the Southland cafe was above budgeted revenue.

Mrs O'Shea did not respond to a question asking if Mr Powell's figures for Dunedin Hospital were accurate, but she said the board had no plan to revert to the cheaper prices.

Items produced in-house, such as sandwiches, rolls, baked goods, hot dishes and salads, were included in the price increase.

An example of the change was the price of a scone going from $2.40 to $2.80, Mrs O'Shea said.

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