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Monday, March 16, 2015

Hospital food and betrayal

Jim Nald writes (The Standard):

Regarding Dunedin Hospital’s frozen meals being trucked in from Auckland, someone has written some thoughtful comments to the Southern District Health Board and here’s the letter [edited] for your information:

Dear Sir,

I am a retired psychiatrist, who worked for the Dunedin Hospital Board for many years. I am writing on behalf of many others I have spoken to in the Dunedin community, of which I have been part for 36 years.

I recently wrote a letter to the Otago Daily Times on this issue, and have been urged to bring our concerns to the attention of the Southern District Health Board (SDHB) members.

There are two related issues:

[1] Food Services should not be privatised. This is not simply a matter of jobs being lost locally and renovated kitchens standing idle. It is inhumane to talk about money-saving as a primary object, rather about human beings who are unwell.

Psychologically, as well as physiologically, food is very important for all people. We are hard-wired to associate food with care and motherly love, which makes us feel secure and cared-for. Natural endorphins thus released help healing. Part of this is the feeling of intimacy and individual care local cooking provided. “If you don’t
like the chicken, I will see what the kitchen can fix up for you.” They do not need carefully devised, nutritionally accurate airline-type food sent from some hub where cost-saving is the main focus at the bottom line of the spreadsheet.

Local food comes with concern and love from our own community. Everybody knows each other: two degrees of separation here, not six.

When food cooked on site the delicious aromas drift up to stimulate flagging appetites, as occurs in the home.

[2] Greater and longer lasting risks and problems will be faced by the SDHB if they accept Compass Group as their contract food service. They are the largest contract food service in the world, based in the UK, but having operations in over 50 countries. It is a multinational organisation, listed on the London Stock Exchange and is a constituent
of the FTSE 100 Index. Compass Group may seem to offer a good deal, but additional costs may be covert, like the recently discovered ‘setting up costs’. They are out to make as much money for their shareholders as they can, and are not offering a ‘good deal’ to Otago and Southland out of goodwill. They want to make money out of us. Our sick and infirm are commodities to them. And the money will mainly leave NZ. They will pay a little tax, exploiting our tax loop-holes perfectly legally, and will siphon away the money that needs to be circulating in NZ for New Zealanders.

Once locked into a contract with a multinational like this, the SDHB will find themselves riding a tiger. Multinationals can start to demand terms in the decision-making process regarding service delivery, and may take this out of the SDHB’s hands, as they can have recourse to the Investor States Disputes Settlement [ISDS] if they deem that their free access to making profit is being impaired in some way. If the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement comes in, this is more likely to happen. They could bring objections in from one of their many other sites in countries who are signatories.

For example, NZ has laws about the ingredients in food, both how they are sourced, and whether they are GE free, to name but two. One can speculate how they will avoid meeting these laws in the search for the cheapest ingredients, or failing that, take the issue to the ISDS, which is an off-shore tribunal and costs to contest objections are
huge. Besides, the tribunal is weighted in favour of the multinational.

It would be better, if hospital food services must be privatised, to give the contract to a New Zealand-based and owned firm, even if it seems not to save as much money. It may well be cheaper in the long run. Of course, care must be taken that that company is not covertly owned by a multinational itself, as can be the case.

Please give the above earnest consideration before action is taken.

Thank you for your attention.


DarkHorse said...

stupid is as stupid does

Armchair Critic said...

Surely they could source the meals more cheaply from overseas. One of those ex-communist european states could do us a deal and fly the meals over in bulk. We could make sure NZ jobs are protected by insisting that at least 25% of each meal is made with NZ sourced produce. What could possibly be wrong with that?

robertguyton said...

Wouldn't even need to be real food. Why not utilise non-organic waste from some industry or other. It'd be wasted otherwise and it'll be cheap as chips!