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HSE defends hospital food

The HSE has criticised a newspaper for comparing hospital food with ‘Happy Meals’.

File photo
File photo
Image: ejorpin via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE HEALTH SERVICE Executive has defended the food it serves to patients across Irish hospitals following media reports yesterday which claimed that it spent as little as €2 on meals.

In a statement issued as a response to the Irish Examiner article, the HSE said the average cost of a meal provided in hospitals is between €8 and €9. The prices vary from hospital to hospital, it added, depending on the range of services offered, the number of high-dependency patients and individual dietary requirements.

Commenting on the specifics included by the reporter, the agency said:

The article concerned makes a comparison between the spend on a hospital meal and the cost of a ‘Happy Meal’. The approach taken to determine the costs of hospital food used in the article does not provide the reader with a fair understanding of the real cost of meals in hospitals.

The HSE conceded that it had made cuts of €9 million relating to food over the past two years but said these came from various agreements and efficiencies. It said it has moved from a series of contracts and local arrangements to more effective national purchasing arrangements to achieve economies of scale.

A National Advisory Group of dieticians, nutritionists, catering managers and procurement works to set out the standards in relation to food in hospitals, according to the HSE which says greater value for money has been achieved without compromising on quality.

“For example, a high salt intake is detrimental to good heart health. In an effort to reduce salt intake for patients, the HSE undertook to negotiate directly with bread manufacturers. Given the scale (approx 1 million sliced pans per annum) of the bread consumed across the health services, the manufacturer was able to commit to producing bread with reduced salt, for all hospitals in a manner that is cost effective. This is healthier for patients and achieves value for money for the tax payer.”

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Hitting out at the article in question, the spokesperson said that the comparison of the cost of ingredients to those used by a global fast food provider is not “like with like” as they are “two totally different and unrelated industry sectors operating on very different scales”.

At the weekend, the Sunday Independent also published details of its investigation into the price of hospital food and found that some hospitals were spending up to €41 on a single meal.

The HSE is currently running a €280 million deficit but expects that to increase to half a billion euro by the end of the year. The issue is due to be debated in the Dáil this week.

More: Howlin insists HSE will reach savings target despite €280m overspend>

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