Jan Clifford pictured with Pam Ralph and Lorna Adams.
Jan Clifford pictured with Pam Ralph and Lorna Adams.

Hospital cash woes claim dismissed by trader, staff

CLAIMS the North Coast Area Health Service is in financial trouble were yesterday slammed by suppliers, staff and community groups.

This week Tweed and Lismore MPs Geoff Provest and Thomas George said the health service was not paying its bills, but suppliers were afraid to come forward for fear they would lose their contracts.

“They'd be crucified,” Mr George said.

Health service boss Chris Crawford denied claims the Tweed Hosptial was broke, while the NSW Health Minister John Della Bosca said in Parliament the claims were outrageous.

The allegations came after it was revealed last month Dubbo Hospital had not been able to pay its suppliers and staff had been purchasing equipment for essential patient tests out of their own pockets from a vet.

However, local butcher Graham Hutley has been supplying the health service with meat for 15 years and said it was a good customer.

“They are one of our biggest customers. We supply them with a lot of meat,” Mr Hutley said.

The meat goes to the health service's production centre in Casino where meals are prepared and distributed to hospitals throughout the region.

Mr Hutley said the health service had always paid its bills and he had not heard of any other supplier who had trouble with the service.

Richmond Health Participation Forum member Jan Clifford said the allegations were a 'beat-up'.

The forum meets with representatives from the health service on a monthly basis, discusses community concerns and provides the health service with feedback.

“It's just not true,” Mrs Clifford said.

Mrs Clifford said there were areas where the health service could improve, like attracting more doctors and nurses, but she felt the services's finances were well managed.

NSW Nurses Association branch secretary and intensive care nurse at Lismore Base Hospital Gil Wilson said he had not experienced any equipment shortages at the hospital.

“The only shortage is of nurses,” he said.

Mr Wilson said nurses at the hospital often had to work double shifts and the shortages were worse in specialist fields like intensive care, dialysis and midwifery.

However, Mr Wilson said compared to metropolitan hospitals things at Lismore were pretty good.

Lismore surgeon Dr Robert Simon said the real issues for the hospital were a lack of funds and staff.

“We need a bigger budget, a bigger hospital, more senior staff and a better way of attracting young doctors,” Dr Simon said.

A spokesperson for the health service said recruitment of specialist medical staff was a nationwide challenge which was related to insufficient places at Australian universities.

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