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Tasty tucker . . . Gore Hospital meal support co- ordinator Sara Collins checks the temperature of meals-on-wheels meals prepared at Southland Hospital earlier in the day that have been heating in the newly in stalled steam oven at the hospital. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

Too many cooks spoil the broth, but in the case of preparing meals for Gore Hospital it is not enough cooks that has become a problem.

For the past 22 years, since the hospital moved to new premises in Birch Lane, the Hotel Heartland Croydon has cooked meals for the hospital’s meals-on-wheels service and for patients.

A commercial kitchen was not included in the building when the hospital was built.

Mataura Licensing Trust general manager Mark Paterson said the main reason the hotel had to stop preparing the meals was a shortage of staff.

“We are really struggling to get people to work for us,” Mr Paterson said.

The hospitality industry was going through a difficult patch and the hotel needed to keep to its core business, providing meals for its guests, he said.

“When that’s getting compromised and you don’t have enough staff to do both operations then the non-performing one has got to go.”

It had been a community service providing the meals.

“There was never any money in it.”

The types of meals the hotel was required to provide had changed considerably which made preparing meals challenging.

He recalled in the early days it was possible to cook a big roast and feed everyone.

“Now it’s almost everyone requires a separate meal…

” It’s impossible for us to continue on, really.”

Gore Hospital chief executive Karl Metzler said the meals would be prepared at Southland Hospital by Compass Group.

The international company specialised in providing meals for hospitals and aged- care facilities which meant it was very experienced in the safety aspects of food preparation and adept at developing meal plans.

”It’s their core business. They have this science down to a fine art.

”When you’re dealing with a private hotel provider that is under enormous staffing constraints the quality can get variable.”

There was no other provider in Gore which could provide the 90 meals a day needed for patients and meals-on-wheels client. The meals would be prepared six days a week, chilled and sent to Gore.

The hospital had bought a steam oven with capacity for 80 meals.

”We then heat up those meals and we serve them fresh.

”Sunday’s meal would be stored overnight and heated when needed.”

He acknowledged the MLT for its support.

”It’s been a long and strong relationship.”

The hotel had provided meals for everyday of the year in ”rain, snow, sleet, hail and gale-force winds.”