It was supposed to be a work Christmas lunch to cap off a ''treacherous'' year. Instead one Bay of Plenty DHB worker says it was 'disgusting'.
The Bay of Plenty health board gave staff a ''disgusting'' Christmas lunch of processed ham with ''two teaspoons of salad, two teaspoons of coleslaw'' cold pumpkin and a "little" tub of ice cream this year.
One upset staff member described the lunch in a cardboard box as ''disgusting'' and "devaluing". The nurses union has also expressed disappointment.
The DHB told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend it would take note of all feedback. Covid-19 had been a major disruptor and it had been a major logistical exercise to plan the lunch for about 3800 staff. It had also been planned at a higher alert level.
In previous years, Tauranga DHB staff were invited to the hospital roof garden to enjoy a buffet lunch but because of Covid-19 restrictions, the lunch was delivered in boxes to all hospital departments.
"Last year we had ham on bone, seafood, potato and green salads, chicken, apple sauce, yummy buns and pudding was an array of fruit salads, jelly, cream on puddings and fruit tarts.
"We got a little tub of ice cream this year."
The Bay of Plenty DHB staff member, who spoke to the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend on condition of anonymity, said there was no issue until the boxes were opened.
"It was laughable."
The hospital worker did not want to sound ungrateful because they usually appreciated the gesture, but after the "treacherous year" staff had because of the pandemic they felt neglected.
"We were pretty disgusted, devalued.
"I think the general opinion was disbelief at what we got."
A lot was thrown in the bin, they said.
"Staff are really pissed off after a treacherous year working right though lockdown. This is the only recognition we get for our work.
"Obviously the budget was even tighter this year."
The staff member said most staff had worked right through lockdown and had stepped up to the challenge and changes in their roles.
"Good food doesn't have to cost a lot of money and it just shows very little thought and effort."
Bay of Plenty DHB facilities and business operations general manager Jeff Hodson said he regretted that staff were not happy and would be listening to feedback.
"Our staff are our most important asset, as they have once more shown with their incredible service under tough circumstances this year.
"Unfortunately, Covid-19 has been a major disruptor in many areas of our lives this year and it has had an impact on our traditional staff Christmas lunches as well."
Hodson said planning the lunch for about 3800 staff was done at a higher alert level, and aimed to ensure the meal could take place no matter the alert level.
"We didn't want to be faced with a scenario where they might have to be cancelled completely."
In the weeks leading up to the lunches, the Government was still urging people to be cautious about large seasonal events because of the potential increase in risk, Hodson said.
That was on top of staff getting "extremely tired" working on the frontline.
"The last thing we wanted was an outbreak here that they had to manage over Christmas.
"All in all, we did our very best to balance this and asked many of our teams prior to the event whether they felt we had the balance right and if they had any concerns; people appeared comfortable and understanding.
"Covid-19 and our responsibilities to our staff and communities regarding it was the sole driver. It was never about affordability or savings. Had Covid-19 not happened the lunches would have followed their usual buffet-style form.
A New Zealand Nurses Organisation spokesman said so much had been asked of nurses and health care workers this year.
"They've risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to keep us safe from Covid, while still having to fight for decent wages and working conditions.
"Having to pop out for a snack after the Christmas lunch provided by your employer may seem minor in the scheme of things, but it is really disappointing that a chance to show a decent level of appreciation for these valuable workers has been so profoundly missed."
In comparison, roast chicken and fruit mince tarts were how people in prison marked the festive season in New Zealand last Christmas.
The Department of Corrections would not reveal this year's menu but last year's one cost about $5.60 per prisoner – the same menu cost as any other day. It met basic nutritional requirements and was not lavish, the Department of Corrections said on its website.
It consisted of the standard meal of chicken and vegetables that was served regularly - with the addition of a fruit mince tart to mark the day.