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Let MPs eat Compass hospital meals

Wednesday 5 October 2016

Let MPs eat Compass hospital meals

The growing practice of New Zealand hospital meals being supplied frozen by overseas-owned companies again raises the question of why the government and Health Ministry are pursuing such a ridiculous agenda, according to Democrats for Social Credit Party (DSC) health spokesman David Tranter.

As an example, Southern DHB hospital meals (including Meals on Wheels) are sourced from Auckland and supplied by an overseas company, Compass, with local hospital kitchens used for "assembling and heating" meals. Common sense surely demands that since hospitals have their own kitchens they should be used to provide locally-made meals, preferably using locally-sourced ingredients.

Can the government and its Health Ministry really not understand the advantages for patients of fresh food over re-heated frozen meals, and the further advantage of providing more local employment in hospitals? Or are they obsessed with contributing to the profits of overseas-owned businesses to the exclusion of all else?

In the North Island the Hauora Tairawhiti DHB also has a contract with Compass. DSC Seniors Advocate Heather Smith comments "The Board ignores the interest and capital charge ($3.4 million) demanded by the Crown to service the loans it has borrowed on the capital markets. This is money which could and should be employing providers and preparers of food within our region, so helping the economy”.

As the DSC has repeatedly pointed out, the waste of money forced on DHBs by loan interest and capital charges is a blight upon the entire health system when it is within the power of the Minister of Health to enable DHB loans to be funded at zero interest from the Reserve Bank.

The reply to enquiries sent to the current and previous health ministers and the finance minister asking why they won't do this is always a glib “It's not our policy”.

The opposition to the frozen meals agenda goes far beyond the DSC’s views. In SDHB area the Real Meals Coalition has gathered 3,000 signatures supporting the dumping of the contract with Compass and has called on the Southern District Health Board to end its 15 year contract with Compass. As elsewhere, the quality of Compass meals in the region’s hospitals has been described as "rubbish", “disgusting", and "inedible".

The 15-year hospital food service contract with the Compass Group had to be renegotiated because so few DHBs had joined - just six of 20 DHBs signed up. It hasn’t been a roaring success but this week, the remaining DHBs have to sign before the deadline ends.

If the government really believes current food quality in public hospitals is acceptable, MPs should be served Compass meals for a week in Parliament's dining rooms.


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