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Robots deliver new catering era

Bold new era: Fiona Stanley Hospital soft facilities manager Breffni Doyle and internal logistics porter Henry Bandurski with an Automated Guided Vehicle. Picture: Danella Bevis/The West Australian for hospital catering.

The smell of a hospital ward is, traditionally, the smell of boiled cabbage.

But when stage one of the Fiona Stanley Hospital opens next week, there won't be an errant aroma in the building. Free-roaming food delivery robots, cutting-edge cooking and "fully traceable" food safety protocols are all part of a bold new era for hospital catering.

Front and centre in the high-tech push are the hospital's 18 automated guided vehicles, which bustle around the corridors like friendly daleks guided by a combination of GPS, proximity sensors, wi-fi and some powerful computing.

"They can interrogate the hospital systems by wi-fi to call a lift and program it to take their trolley to the right floor and deliver food across the campus," Fiona Stanley's soft services manager Breffni Doyle said.

The 300kg AGVs will deliver up to 2200 meals a day, directly to wards without human intervention, once they leave the kitchen.

When the robot docks with a food trolley, it is instructed where to go via a computer chip.

"The technology means food is not held too long and the time between cooking and delivery is significantly reduced," head chef Steve Newson said. Patients will be able to order their meals via a patient entertainment system that also delivers movies, TV, radio and news to the bed via a smart terminal.

"We want to make the dining experience as rich and enjoyable as possible," Mr Newson said.

"We buy in fresh vegetables, steaming them and chilling them ourselves. All our wet dishes are made on site from scratch."

Mr Newson and his team of chefs are directed, first and foremost, by nutritional guidelines and portion sizes set by the hospital's nutritionists.

Salt is reduced in all foods and there's not a deep fryer to be found anywhere on the campus.