Editorial: Hospital fare makes the grade

By Roger Moroney

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Some years back, in the wake of getting off my motorcycle while the thing was still doing about 90km/h, I found myself being checked into hospital.

Despite not having booked ahead they had a bed for me and were happy to provide what unfortunately appeared to be a nightie for me until my wife could bring some pyjamas and other stuff down. And they put on three meals a day for me as well as a glass of water when I felt dry. It was like being in a motel, except I couldn't exactly get up and move around too easily.

I remember one evening when the dinner was brought around and one of the long-term patients (a grisly old farmer) reckoned it looked like chow mollier. "The stuff I feed the cows."

To which the serving nurse simply said that's okay, she'd go and feed it to his cows then, and turned and walked out. He went hungry.

Hospital food has long taken the critical culinary knocks, often justified but on the whole it makes the grade. I know a guy who has recently spent extended time in Hawke's Bay Hospital and he said the food was very good. Didn't always suit what he felt like but it was fine.

He had no complaints. Any regional hospital in the country has a "guest" list double, treble or more than the biggest hotel in the biggest cities, so the logistics of providing meals is huge.

And so, like two other vital staples of Kiwi life, education and law and order, health had to come under the "what can we do to save money?" spotlight. Health Minister Tony Ryall has put the kitchens under review.

The ministry has figured that meals, styled like the foil-tray airline dishes, produced at a centralised kitchen production line and frozen for delivery, would feed patients as well as cut costs ... because hospital kitchen staff would not be required. The millions saved would go back into general health funding, the ministry has said. Which makes sense, but what doesn't make sense is that the hundreds of people who could lose their jobs are unlikely to benefit in any way and will join a daunting unemployment queue.

Job losses have become the greatest casualty of the age, second only to cost-cutting, which generally influences the former.

Some sense a sort of Novopay theme to this latest proposal, and may have a point when when they say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

- Bay of Plenty Times

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