New menus for hospital patients

Patients at Dunedin Hospital and Wakari Hospital switched to a new menu yesterday in the next step of a controversial outsourcing deal.

Fresh from an uproar over the new Meals on Wheels, the Southern District Health Board is hoping for a better response from hospital patients to the change.

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‘‘The food services transition in Southland went very well and we anticipate a similar experience in Dunedin.

‘‘Compass have been very responsive. They have been taking on board suggestions and feedback and have been making changes where needed,'' chief executive Carole Heatly said in a press release yesterday.

Southland Hospital patients switched to the new menu last month. Patient food arrives in pre-prepared components for assembly in Dunedin and Invercargill.

While some of the pre-prepared components are frozen, they are not whole frozen meals like the Meals on Wheels.

The new patient menu meant more meal choices, and food orders were recorded on an electronic tablet, meaning patients could order much closer to meal times.

The Compass Group took over hospital kitchens in October, but has staggered the changes to how food is prepared and sourced.

Since Meals on Wheels switched to frozen and reheated meals last month, 49 Dunedin recipients have quit the service.

‘‘We have contacted the clients who have cancelled and made sure that they have all made alternative arrangements and are working with Compass to ensure that feedback is followed up and any concerns clients have are remedied,'' Ms Heatly said yesterday.

Among those who spoke out about their quality, volunteer deliverer Liz Green, of Dunedin, called the meals ‘‘absolutely yuck'', and said older people deserved better.

In response, the board held an urgent meeting with Compass last week, after which it said Compass was holding new taste-testing sessions with interested parties.

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