Bathurst Hospital food feud: Kitchen staff angered by management's response

FOOD FEUD: The plate of food that sparked a debate over quality control at Bathurst Hospital. Photo: SUPPLIED
FOOD FEUD: The plate of food that sparked a debate over quality control at Bathurst Hospital. Photo: SUPPLIED

KITCHEN staff at Bathurst Hospital believe they have been unfairly targeted by management over the poor quality of a plate of food served to a patient last week.

A visitor sent the Western Advocate a photo of the meal, saying “my dog eats better than that”.

It prompted an apology from hospital general manager Cathy Marshall who conceded the meal fell short of the hospital’s standards, but it was her “clear direction to kitchen staff to raise food preparation standards” that most angered hospital workers.

One long-serving staff member, who asked not to be named, said kitchen staff went out of their way to meet patient needs but there was little they could do about the quality of the food.

Pre-cooked meals are brought into the hospital by outside suppliers and simply plated and heated by hospital staff.

“But if the patient can’t see anything on the menu they want we will ask them what they feel like, maybe scrambled eggs or poached eggs, and if we have it we will get it for them,” she said.

“You only have to see all the thank you cards on our wall to know that most patients are very happy with what we do.”

The employee said Ms Marshall met with kitchen staff on Tuesday morning but there was no apology offered.

But a written statement issued by the hospital to the Western Advocate on Tuesday afternoon said Ms Marshall had meant no offence.

The statement said the hospital’s kitchen staff worked hard to present nutritious and enjoyable meals.

“In most cases patients are satisfied with the food presented to them. In the last Bureau of Health Information inpatient survey conducted in 2016, 68 per cent of Bathurst Hospital patients reported their food was good or very good,” the statement said.

“The hospital general manager did not intend for the response to be critical of their work.

“Staff can’t be expected to change the way in which pre-cooked food is delivered to the hospital, but it is possible to control the way the meals are plated and presented.

”We know staff work hard to ensure meals plated at the hospital are presented in the best way possible.”

The hospital did not respond to claims the kitchen was under-staffed.

“There are just three staff on the afternoon shift who have to do afternoon tea, tea and supper for the whole hospital before they finish at 8.30pm,” a staff member told the Western Advocate.