Meals on Wheels schedule changes put volunteers off

Duncan Whyte, of Dunedin, prepares to deliver meals  in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Duncan Whyte, of Dunedin, prepares to deliver meals in Dunedin yesterday. Photo by Peter McIntosh.
Age Concern says its Dunedin Meals on Wheels service faced ''upheaval'' and lost about 10 volunteers when the Southern District Health Board started delivering meals 30 minutes early without warning.

Age Concern Otago executive officer Susan Davidson said meals were now dropped off at 11.15am at Bath St, sometimes earlier.

Recipients now get the meals, for which they pay $5, as early as 11.30am.

Ms Davidson said while the system was settling down, she believed meals were better delivered to their recipients around noon. Some volunteers could no longer fit the task into their lunch break, and she feared future recruitment would not be as easy due to the changes.

''It has made us rather grumpy and ... resulted in the loss of some long-term volunteers.

''We are very aware that the changes have resulted in some drivers having to give up a volunteer role which they really valued,'' Ms Davidson said in the group's March newsletter.

She said Age Concern was not advised of the change, which came to light on Christmas Day, when volunteers turned up to find the health board had got taxis to deliver the meals.

The resulting ''kerfuffle'' was awkward for Age Concern, given volunteers gave up their own time on Christmas Day.

When the same early time affected deliveries on Boxing Day, the organisation contacted the health board and was advised the meals were being dropped off earlier.

Ms Davidson said the board changed its delivery time to Wakari Hospital in September, but advised of no change to the other three Dunedin pick-up points.

The health board issued a statement yesterday saying the earlier deliveries were phased in from September to December.

Women's, children's and public health general manager Elaine Chisnall said in a statement an increased workload because of changes to inpatient meal times and new staff cafes prompted the earlier deliveries.

''We need to ensure that we are meeting the needs of those who receive the meals and the dedicated volunteers who deliver them. We will work with Age Concern to ensure that this is happening.''

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