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It is a matter of public record that many in the local community were not in favour of changes to the food services at Southern District Health Board (SDHB).
Compass Group NZ has always been committed to providing an equal if not better food service, for a lower cost. Patients and families can be assured that the projected cost savings are being achieved through better buying contracts and a streamlined food service, not a reduction in food quality.
Meals today are very similar to before and are prepared and served by the same staff. Previously, main protein items were cooked and chilled then reheated for the food service, and other menu items were prepared from fresh, frozen and chilled foods.
The difference now is that specialist suppliers prepare the main protein item, baked goods and some desserts. Fruit and vegetables are the same local supplier as before, bread is fresh from a local bakery and many menu items are cooked from scratch, such as vegetables, rice and custard.
While complaints may have made some news headlines, we've also had positive feedback and are confident that we are delivering nutritious meals that are as good as those provided in other New Zealand hospitals.
A qualitative survey at Dunedin Hospital in the third week of our serving the new menu showed that three-quarters of patients were satisfied with their food. This included very positive comments like: ‘‘fresh''; ‘‘tasty''; ‘‘ate it all up''; and ‘‘better than before''.
We specifically asked patients what improvements could be made and while 25% made comments some of those reflected personal preferences like ‘‘not enough dressing on the salad'', and ‘‘prefer sliced rather than mashed egg''.
We genuinely listened to this and other feedback, and have changed three menu items and some recipes as a result. To further improve our responsiveness to patient feedback, we have two patient experience co-ordinators who liaise with ward staff and patients during meal times in place for the next four weeks, to ensure any concerns are understood, and responded to if necessary. Patients may also email us directly at any time.
Good food is our business and Compass has longstanding contracts with organisations across New Zealand including eight other DHBs. We have had relationships with many of those DHBs for more than 29 years. Hospital food services are an essential part of patient care and we would not retain these relationships if we did not meet this need.
All of us at Compass are dedicated to providing good health services to our communities. The food service team members at SDHB are part of the local community who consistently work to provide quality food to patients.
Compass has been part of the Dunedin business community for many years; we currently employ more than 200 people and have fed many thousands of people in rest-homes, schools, council buildings and Forsyth Barr stadium. During one of the city's largest international sporting events in 2011, the quality of catering was a point of pride for Dunedin.
We have substantially increased our spending in the region through national supply contracts with local businesses. This has not been at the expense of hospital kitchens, which have remained fully operational, with the majority of staff employed under the former service model retaining their jobs.
The individual meals for our Meals on Wheels service are delivered to Dunedin frozen, allowing food service staff to heat meals just before collection for delivery, significantly reducing the time food is held warm. The early issues in consistency of quality are being addressed and we have plans for further improvements.
Hospital food services are provided to people who are mostly unwell. At Dunedin Hospital, up to 45% of the meals cater to special dietary requirements. This includes pureed, minced, and low-fibre diets (when white bread is provided).
Patients are served three meals and two snacks each day and each meal reflects what they have chosen to eat from the menu options suitable for their diet.
Meals will therefore not always look like the food we eat at home.
Minced beef with gravy and mashed potato served without a side of vegetables will lack colour, but it's a tasty and enjoyable meal when you are unwell - something a photo can't convey.
The meals provided at Southern DHB meet an agreed national nutritional standard, developed with the assistance of DHB food service managers and dietitians. These cover individual nutrient requirements, menu structure and meal sizes.
In closing, I encourage anyone who has a particular concern or issue with the Hospital Food Services in SDHB to contact us directly. We are 100% committed to addressing any genuine issues.
It is as important to us as it is to everyone else in Dunedin, that the food services at SDHB deliver all of the intended benefits, with food quality and nutrition being our key focus.