Positives in meals outsourcing - report

The money invested in Dunedin Hospital's kitchen in recent years was not analysed in a report out this week giving the green light to outsourcing, its author says.

''It just wasn't part of the brief,'' Auckland consultant Pat Snedden told the Otago Daily Times this week.

Commissioned by the Southern District Health Board, the report says promised savings stack up, and meal quality stands to improve from the Compass Group plan.

The kitchen, the regional hub for hospital food and meals on wheels in Otago and Southland, had an upgrade worth nearly $1 million in 2008. More recently, a $350,000 food management and menu system was installed.

The health board would be required to maintain existing plant and equipment, while Compass would be responsible for providing and maintaining new plant or equipment.

Mr Snedden said Compass wanted to expand its operations in Otago, and that was something the community should support.

''And I would have thought that the ODT would be keen for people to be investing in Otago.

''[Compass] want to be an investor in the region. You can take that as a serious indicator or a grain of salt.

''That's a judgement for the reader [of the report].''

Mr Snedden said affected staff - up to 20% of about 120 workers could lose their jobs - would benefit from Compass expanding because of the potential for redeployment.

''You're making the point with me about job losses. I'm making the point to you about job opportunities,'' he said.

Asked if the report considered the carbon miles involved in trucking meals and meal components to the South, he said it did not.

The plan includes trucking frozen meals on wheels from Auckland to Dunedin and Invercargill. Meals for patients would be assembled on site with pre-prepared components.

Mr Snedden, a former DHB chairman, said the southern board had serious financial issues and had to find savings.

Savings are projected to be $6.96 million or more over the 15 years of the contract, which could be about 0.05% of board income over that period, assuming flat funding.

''When you're losing money like this [Southern] DHB is losing money, these savings are not minuscule; they are significant.''

The board will make a final decision next month.

eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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