The private operators of the $2.3 billion new Royal Adelaide Hospital could face financial penalties for the substandard delivery of food to patients.
The hospital has been beset by complaints over bland, poor quality and late meal deliveries since it opened its doors to patients last September.
A photo of a meal posted on Facebook by Sam Carter, who has a family member in the hospital, was accompanied by a scathing message.
“This is what the RAH call food. I wouldn’t feed this to my dogs,” Mr Carter said.
“Very sad for a new hospital to serve this.”
Under the $397 million annual contract struck by the former Labor state government with the hospital consortium Celsus, contractor Spotless has the responsibility for delivering all catering, hospitality, cleaning, laundry and maintenance services to the major tertiary hospital until 2046.
Health Minister Stephen Wade said the Government had received the latest quarterly invoice from Spotless, and a contract administrator was in the process of calculating reductions which could apply to the bill.
“The fact of the matter is that we don’t believe that the food has been delivered over the past six months in full fulfillment of the contract and we’ll be looking for abatements on the next payment through SA Health,” he said.
“Taxpayers should not have to pay for services that are not delivered.”
Mr Wade said he had not yet been advised what level of penalty might be applied.
“Under the contract, that is a matter for the contract administrator to calculate,” he said.
“Then, if you like, we’ll respond to the invoice.”
Labor ‘makes no apologies’ for contract arrangements
Inside the new RAH, which has been beset by problems since opening. (ABC News: Tom Fedorowytsch)
Mr Wade said about half the quality issues raised in relation to the contract related to food.
“The timeliness issues I understand have been significantly improved,” the minister said.
“But we’re continuing to have issues in what I regard is one of the most critical areas of service delivery, which is special meals for our most vulnerable patients.”
Opposition health spokesman Chris Picton said Labor had been “in the process” of applying penalties before the election.
“We make no apologies for having a very strong contract which protects the taxpayers of South Australia,” he said.
“[It] gives the new government the ability to take action under that contract if services being provided aren’t at an appropriate standard.”
Last month, Mr Wade lambasted construction problems at the new RAH, which has been described as the nation’s most expensive building.
He said part of the emergency department may have to be rebuilt because rooms are not big enough to treat critically ill and injured patients.
In February, operations were disrupted when a software failure left part of the site temporarily without power.
The ABC attempted to get a response from the Celsus, but was told it could not comment and directed all media inquiries to the State Government.