Milk to stay local after rethink on hospital contract

AUTHORITIES have done a backflip on a decision to award a contract to supply milk to hospitals from a local supplier to one based in Queensland.

A number of Facebook pages – including the Guardian’s – went into meltdown this week as residents vented over the decision to dump Norco as the primary milk supplier to North Coast hospitals.

The decision by NSW Health’s procurement provider Healthshare to award the contract to Dairy Farmers, based in Queensland, outraged dairy farming suppliers between the northern border and the Port Macquarie-Hastings and Macleay regions.

But Health Minister Bradd Hazzard announced today that decision had now been scrapped, and that the contract for milk and dairy supplies for hospitals on the North and Mid North Coast will now be filled by the previous supplier, Norco, following discussions this week.

Mr Hazzard said the NSW Government recognised that the local community wanted to support the local dairy industry in Northern NSW.

“The NSW Ministry of Health has a duty, generally, to provide the best products for patients at the best possible price for taxpayers,” Mr Hazzard said.

“In that context the NSW public sector agency, HealthShare NSW, put the state-wide contract for milk and dairy supply out to tender and made a decision which precluded Norco supplying hospitals in the northern and Mid North Coast areas.

“I am grateful to local MP Thomas George for bringing the matter to my attention so promptly and relaying community concerns. It is understandable that locals would prefer to have Norco provide the milk and dairy products for local hospitals.

“In light of the impact on the community, which only came to light after the tender, I asked HealthShare NSW to review its decision. Accordingly, the contract will be reinstated and the benefits of providing local milk to local hospitals have been given priority.”

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And some of the outrage which followed on the Guardian Facebook page:

Norco represents 211 North Coast dairy farmers, including those based in the Macleay and Hastings, employs 830 staff, and has factories in both Raleigh and Labrador.

The company is fully farmer-owned and the last large dairy cooperative remaining in Australia with a local history spanning 110 years.