Hospitals’ food fail

By David Kavanagh | posted on August 29, 2019

THREE Great Southern hospitals completely failed to abide by a compulsory government policy requiring health facilities to serve healthy food to visitors, according to a recently released 2018-19 audit report.

Albany Health Campus, Katanning Hospital and the Plantagenet Cranbrook Health Service Hospital were three of eight regional state health sites identified as having a zero per cent compliance rate with the Healthy Options WA policy.

The three facilities are administered by the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) and each had their cafes, kiosks or canteens and vending machines assessed as part of the Health Department audit.

Between them they house a total eight cafes and vending machines, with half of those being located at the Albany site.

A WACHS spokeswoman said the organisation accepted the report’s findings.

“It’s important to note that this audit reflects food options available to the public through canteens, kiosks and vending machines at our facilities,” she said.

“It isn’t reflective of the food served to patients.”

The spokeswoman added the organisation was committed to helping West Australians “live longer, happier and healthier lives” and had been “progressively implementing the requirements of the policy and will be making further progress toward compliance”.

She did not elaborate on what changes had been made since a similar audit was conducted in 2016 and did not answer questions specific to the three Great Southern facilities.

A total of 13 of the 25 metropolitan and regional health facilities examined as part of the review fall under the purview of WACHS.

The audit found 47 per cent of the 215 food providers across the 25 locales were compliant with the policy’s ‘traffic light’ system, which requires at least 50 per cent of available food and drink to fall under a ‘green’ most healthy classification.

It also requires that no more than 20 per cent fit into the ‘red’ least healthy option, that only ‘green’ food and drink be promoted and that no ‘red’ items be used for fundraising, events or prizes.

Fremantle Hospital was labelled the most compliant with an 81 per cent compliance rating, followed closely by Bentley Hospital with 78 per cent.

Minister for Health Roger Cook said hospitals should be the “exemplars” of healthy eating policy.

“We want to avoid situations where a person has no choice but to choose an unhealthy food or drink,” he said.

“This does not mean banning unhealthy food and denying the sale of treats, but they should offer choices that support healthy living.

“Around a third of health impacts from chronic disease could be prevented by encouraging and supporting changes in lifestyle such as better nutrition and regular exercise.”

Mr Cook noted that hospitals had undertaken “further work” to reach compliance since the audit was completed in January.