Growth and Innovation

Gold Coast Private sets standard for hospital food nationally

It's the hospital menu that reads like a cafe - smoked salmon sushi Buddha bowl; prawn dumplings with cauliflower puree and edamame beans; housemade bircher muesli with chia and flax seed.

Gold Coast Private has unveiled a new modern menu, which will soon be available at every Healthscope-operated hospital across Australia, as the leading healthcare provider adopts a standard approach to catering.

Gold Coast Private Executive Chef John O'Shea has been challenging people's views of 'hospital food' for years and his team approaches their role as if catering for guests in a five-star resort.

It’s a move that has changed attitudes and given his team a new-found pride in what they are cooking.

O'Shea, who has spent 20 years in the luxury hotel industry - including as executive chef at the Sofitel - removed bulk-bought frozen sauces and pre-packaged foods. Instead he orders fresh produce for the kitchen team to chop, season and cook from scratch every day.

“Nobody wants to be in hospital - but at Gold Coast Private our aim is to make people's time here as comfortable as possible and food plays a big role in that," said O'Shea.

“Good food not only assists in the recovery process, it also lifts people's spirits and helps their mental and emotional wellbeing.

“Hospital food can have a bad reputation but we've worked really hard at Gold Coast Private to change the negative perception and to get people excited about what they're being served.”

Healthscope has now tasked O'Shea with designing a healthy, visually appealing and modern menu to roll out nationally across its 43 hospitals.

The new menu, which was created in collaboration with dietitians, has retained some old Gold Coast Private favourites - like the pumpkin and kaffir lime risotto with baby spinach - alongside new dishes like lemon pepper fish with grilled asparagus, confit tomato and hollandaise sauce.

The standard approach team – which includes O’Shea’s Gold Coast Private chef and diet analyst, Rhys Lyons and Healthscope’s National Support Services Manager Leanne Taylor - is now visiting every Healthscope hospital in Australia to train staff and implement the new way of cooking and delivering "hospital food".

"While we focus on traditional, home-style meals, we’re proud to be pioneering a change in ‘hospital food’ by offering a selection of gourmet dishes and powerful ‘superfoods’ that are typically found on menus in cafes and restaurants,” O’Shea said.

"We've tried to strike a balance between those modern dishes - like Buddha bowls and Acai bowls - and classic comfort food like roast beef with hassel back potato and Yorkshire pudding, to ensure there's something for everybody.

"We've even carefully designed meals for those with dietary requirements so they aren't just being dished up whatever is on-hand - like our vegan zucchini noodles with Mediterranean vegetables and Napoli sauce; or our baked sweet potato with braised Moroccan spiced chickpeas and tahini dressing."

O'Shea said the menu had been carefully created to offer meals that are nutrient-dense, satisfying and flavoursome.

"In the mornings we focus on foods that boost the metabolism and include low-GI grains for lasting energy; lunch offers meals that are energising and easily digestible; while for dinner patients can expect warm, nourishing dishes that are comforting and satisfying," he said.

"Offering patients at least a few options at each mealtime, regardless of their dietary requirements, is something we feel is important, and our two-week rotating menu guarantees there is good variety, even for long-term patients and those on restricted diets."


O'Shea said he's proud of what they've achieved at Gold Coast Private and to be asked to emulate it nationally was extremely rewarding.

"It's been a group effort and I couldn't be more proud of my team who have worked hard to create a culture where they take pride in their roles, which has positive flow-on effects for our patients and visitors," he said.

"To have been asked to do the same for Healthscope nationally is testament to what we've created and something our entire Gold Coast Private team can be proud of being part of."

Healthscope's National Support Services Manager, Leanne Taylor, said Gold Coast Private had set a new standard which would now benefit patients at all Healthscope hospitals.

"Healthscope's mission is to provide quality healthcare for our patients through all aspects of their hospital admission," Taylor said.

"We pride ourselves on taking a holistic approach to patient care and recognise the importance that food plays in a patient's recovery and overall satisfaction.

"The patient menus at Gold Coast Private set a new standard that will now be synonymous with Healthscope nationally - raising the benchmark for food quality across the entire healthcare sector."

Gold Coast Private General Manager David Harper said his team was continually working towards improving the 'patient experience'.

"We want our patients to feel safe and supported and that means we need to approach their care from all angles - physically, mentally and emotionally," he said.

"Good, healthy food should come as standard in hospitals, but unfortunately that isn't always the case so we are proud to be leading the way in this space."