Hawke's Bay District Health Board (HBDHB) last night said there are no plans to close hospital kitchens after the Labour Party claimed that the Government is planning to close 50 kitchens yesterday.
Health Minister Tony Ryall also said it was incorrect that 50 will be closed, as is being claimed.
Labour said the proposed move by Crown company Health Benefits Limited (HBL), set up by the Ministry of Health to cut costs in the public health sector, would result in outsourcing the making of hospital meals and cost a potential 1300 jobs.
A spokesperson for HBDHB said, in consultation with its staff, it was considering a proposal from HBL around streamlining kitchen food services but there had been no acceptance.
Mr Ryall said the health service is looking at how it can provide a better service with improved quality of food but in a more co-operative way, saving more than $10 million per year which can be reinvested back in to front line hospital services.
"The vast majority of kitchens are already contracted out to private businesses," Mr Ryall said.
He said the consultation could see two, Auckland and Wellington, major new kitchens providing refrigerated food services across the country, resulting in a number of other hospital kitchens being downsized, but HBL said food quality would be maintained.
"It is early days. HBL is still consulting with the unions and a business case is expected to be completed in the next six months or so, but implementation would take longer," Mr Ryall said.