Almost all of the 17 hospitals on the North Coast have severed their contracts with locally based milk producer Norco in favour of a company that sends its profits to Japan.
The move follows a tender by NSW HealthShare, which runs the kitchens of most of the local hospitals, in which Norco lost out to the overseas-owned Dairy Farmers.
And while the dairy co-operative says it won’t affect its viability, CEO Greg McNamara said he was ‘gutted’ it had lost the contract.
‘It makes me disappointed that we can’t supply those people in hospital when they are at their lowest point,’ he told local media.
The company has said it would fight the decision but Lismore MP Thomas George (Nationals) said it’s a done deal but he will lobby the health minister to change the tender process for the future.
‘What I’m asking the minister to look at, the possibility when any tenders go out from government – by HealthShare or any other department – that we do provide a local weight for local companies to apply for these tenders and [they be] looked at with a favourable decision,’ he told ABC radio.
But opposition North Coast spokesperson Walt Secord and shadow Primary Industry Nick Veitch (Labor) have slammed the new arrangement.
‘We have the world’s best milk produced on the North Coast by the world’s best farmers from the world’s best cows; and the state government decides to buy its milk from across the border rather than from just up the road,’ Mr Secord said in a statement.
Mr Veitch said the National Party should be putting local jobs first and showing their solidarity with farmers and local Norco workers.
‘Lismore is proud of its heritage as one of the nation’s best known dairy regions; and we should be supporting local products.’
‘Norco is selling its milk and ice cream to China, but Lismore Base Hospital doesn’t want it. That is a disgrace.’
With Lismore Hospital being one of the major sites to be affected, former Lismore mayor Jenny Dowell has taken to Facebook to vent her anger about the decision.
‘Appalling decision! There are so many reasons to buy NORCO milk –it’s local, farmer owned, totally Australian and after last year’s flood, buying local is even more important for our local economy and well being. We must change this!’ she wrote.
Ms Dowell added that she understood patients may now go without their Yakult (probiotic drink) as the new tenderer was unable to provide it.