Hospital on life support

THE Tweed Hospital is in financial crisis and could close its doors in just two weeks, according to claims made in state Parliament yesterday.

Tweed MP Geoff Provest told Parliament the hospital was broke and could not pay the bills for the supplies it needs for day-to-day operations.

If it was a private business, he said, it would cease operating and be put into administration.

The North Coast Area Health Service yesterday denied the allegations, but Mr Provest said he had%information from "on the ground".

In claims that made the hospital sound more like a dodgy business than an institution charged with saving lives, Mr Provest said bills had gone unpaid for months, and those affected were too scared to go public for fear of retributions.

"Local small businesses have approached me complaining they haven't been paid in three months," Mr Provest told Parliament yesterday.

"They will have no choice but to stop supplying goods and services to the hospital unless they are paid promptly."

"These firms will not go public for fear of retribution in the form of being put at the bottom of the hospital's creditors' list."

According to Mr Provest, at least one supplier faced liquidation if the hospital does not pay up.

He said critical shortages of general supplies meant the hospital could effectively stop full-time operations within a fortnight.

"The Tweed Hospital is broke because the state Labor government is not providing necessary funds. It would be put into administration if it were a private company," he said.

A spokesman for the North Coast Area Health Service rubbished Mr Provest's claims.

"It is incorrect to claim that The Tweed Hospital is unable to pay its bills, or that the hospital's functioning is affected by the present economic challengesnd the economy generally," the spokesman said.

"The facts are that in recent years The Tweed Hospital has received significantly more capital works funding and clinical staffing enhancements than any other major public hospital between Port Macquarie and the Queensland border.

"It is misleading to suggest that providers of goods or services would face retribution for raising their concerns. Any supplier with a query about its account should contact NCAHS to discuss payment."

"Given the continually rising demand for services, NCAHS, like other Health Services nationally and internationally, is working within a tight budgetary framework. It is liaising with its valued suppliers to enable the regular payment of accounts."

Mr Provest said there was a pattern of under-funding in NSW public hospitals.

He said Dubbo Hospital was forced to borrow bandages from vet clinics, while hospitals further west had to stop serving meat to patients because they couldn't pay their bills.

Mr Provest said the crisis at The Tweed Hospital was made worse by the NSW Labor government's continuing failure to fill the 30 new beds it opened in July.

"It is now three months since the Minister for Health opened these beds, but there has been no net increase because Labor is yet to fund and recruit the necessary additional staff," Mr Provest concluded.

The NCAHS spokesman said there had been many recent upgrades to the hospital, including a new renal dialysis unit, oncology and palliative care service, specialised antenatal clinic and the new 30-bed medical ward -- where the spokesman said beds were being brought on line incrementally as nursing staff were recruited.

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