UNDER PRESSURE: Ron Van Setten’s surgical supplies company felt the pinch after a NCAHS account was more than 60 days late.
UNDER PRESSURE: Ron Van Setten’s surgical supplies company felt the pinch after a NCAHS account was more than 60 days late. Jay Cronan

Jobs go to cover NCAHS bills

BALLINA-based Northern Rivers Surgical Supplies had a good relationship with North Coast Area Health Service, until about 12 months ago.

As the year rolled on, so did the backlog of unpaid bills totalling more than $80,000, that were up to 60 days overdue.

“The outstanding amount was quite significant and having an impact on our cashflow,” the company's owner, Ron Van Setten, said. “We needed to take some action. We couldn't afford to keep operating without a cashflow.”

With 'a great deal of perseverance' Mr Van Setten reached 'an amicable agreement'.

His company is one of the lucky ones.

This week it was revealed the NSW Health Department owed more than $69 million to medical suppliers of hospitals, with almost every area health service failing to pay its bills for months.

This included $7.4 million owed by NCAHS to local businesses.

Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford told ABC radio yesterday the bills were unpaid because of the service's high staffing costs.

He said the issue would be resolved once the service finished axing 400 jobs from North Coast hospitals.

About 200 jobs have already gone, and Mr Crawford told Prime News he would bring forward the third and final round of 200 jobs to go next week in a bid to resolve the unpaid supplier issue.

However, the area health service refused to answer a series of questions put to it by The Northern Star yesterday.

In an unattributed emailed response, the service said: “NCAHS values its suppliers, particularly those in small business, and we work closely with them to ensure timely payment”.

It went on to restate the facts relating to the underpayments revealed in a Parliamentary estimates committee.

Mr Van Setten spoke to The Northern Star yesterday to explain how late payments put pressure on business and risked jobs.

“It's important that the people at the top (of the Health Department) understand the impact it is having on small business,” he said.

“It can bring a business to its knees. You don't have the cash to pay your staff in the worst case, and you don't have cash to pay your suppliers.

Mr Van Setten said when the situation was becoming untenable, he contacted the health service to work through it.

“It was a lot of hard work and took perseverance but now we are back on proper trading terms and the situation is quite stable.”



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