Kitchen outsourcing defended

The organisations behind a plan to outsource hospital kitchens gave a presentation to Dunedin City Council without realising their comments could be reported.

Representatives from Compass Group and Health Benefits Ltd, the Government's health cost-cutting entity, defended the outsourcing plan at yesterday's planning and regulatory committee meeting after the plan came under attack from Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull.

If the proposal goes ahead, it is expected to result in up to 20% of hospital kitchen jobs being cut from kitchens in Dunedin Hospital, Wakari Hospital and Southland Hospital.

Compass Group implementation and development manager Lauren Scott told the councillors the company had already spent more than $3 million a year in Southland and Otago.

This figure would significantly increase if the outsourcing plan was adopted nationally.

A Dunedin supplier which had been chosen as the national provider for pasta dishes would experience a significant increase in business.

The representatives also told councillors the Southern District Health Board stood to save at least $7 million over a 15-year period by outsourcing its contract and there would be significant nutritional and patient satisfaction benefits.

Cr Kate Wilson said she was worried at the impact outsourcing would have on local food suppliers.

''It seems like a completely accountant-driven process and I'm not sure that's where we want to be at the city.''

The confusion over whether their presentation was public came at the end of the presentation when Cr Mike Lord asked if a document prepared by the group could be given to media.

The documents showed it was simply one catering company being taken over by another, he said.

Health Benefits Ltd food service implementation manager Mark Dunlop asked if he could get approval from Auckland before handing over the document and made it clear he was unaware the meeting was public.

At that point, committee chairman Cr David Benson-Pope said the meeting was public and therefore the document was also public.

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