$250,000 hospital funds missing
A MURWILLUMBAH community group has accused the North Coast Area Heath Service of removing $250,000 from the town hospital’s Special Purpose and Trust (SP&T) Fund. Murwillumbah District Hospital Support Committee chairman Ian Ross made the allegation last Friday in a letter addressed to the hospital’s Review of Clinical Services committee chairperson Professor Kathy Baker. Mr Ross said he was forced to go public after his requests for an investigation into the location of the funds were ignored by NCAHS. Among the missing funds, Mr Ross lists $213,000 from the sale of a house in Ewing Street owned by the Murwillumbah hospital. Mr Ross said Mr Crawford had given a written promise to use the funds for capital works at the Murwillumbah hospital. Also missing, according to Mr Ross, is $22,000 from the hospital’s operating theatre general fund in June 2007. The list does not include $27,000 raised in the late 1980s for a hydrotherapy pool. "Our research suggests that in the NCAHS region approximately $250,000 has been removed from SP&T accounts for use as general revenue," Mr Ross said. The three-page letter from Mr Ross detailing the missing funds has also been forwarded to NSW Health Minister Reba Meagher, NSW Health Director-General Debora Picone, Murwillumbah MP Thomas George and Richmond MP and Minister for Ageing Justine Elliot. Yesterday, The Tweed Daily News contacted North Coast Area Health Service chief executive Chris Crawford for a comment on the allegations. He denied any knowledge of the missing funds and refused to comment further. This is the second time in as many weeks that the NCAHS has been accused of mis-using funds. As reported in the Tweed Daily News earlier, The Tweed Hospital general manager Associate Professor Trish Hogan wrote to Mr Crawford in August 2007, inquiring about $8313, missing from the Tweed hospital’s SP&T fund, which had been "inappropriately" used for other things. Mr Crawford blamed this incident on an error, saying the money had been "journalled" out of the account by mistake and had since been put back. Using SP&T funds for general funds purposes, Mr Ross said, eroded the very integrity of the communities’ commitment and purpose to raise local funds for health services. "Not only do these practices disadvantage the Murwillumbah hospital financially, but cause much community anger and unrest," he said. "It acts as a disincentive for future fundraising where members of the general community, business community and sponsors, become reluctant to contribute to heath-related fundraising activities." Mr Ross demanded funds raised for the specific use of the Murwillumbah hospital should be returned immediately. "We will establish an interim trust fund to manage all funds raised by the local community until such time as appropriate management practices are in place, " he said. "This will guarantee that all funds raised at the local level, are used for the purposes and the hospital for which they were intended."