Budgeting: Area Health boss Chris Crawford.
Budgeting: Area Health boss Chris Crawford.

NCAHS is in debt for $7m

THE North Coast Area Health Service (NCAHS) has been outed for again failing to pay its creditors within reasonable time.

But while it owed its suppliers more than $7million a few weeks ago, the level of debt many would consider obscene, the figure has been described as a positive result. The chief executive of the NCAHS Chris Crawford said the amount the service owes its creditors varies every week.

“We are very pleased to have been able to stabilise the situation since last year, and that is because we have been working hard on our budget, generating income and reducing costs,” Mr Crawford said.

For the record, the NCAHS last year promised to be more prompt in paying its suppliers after it was revealed that at June 30, 2009, $7.4 million was unpaid to creditors after 45 days.

At March 21 this year, that figure had fallen only marginally to $7.3 million. “We don’t like being in this position and apologise to everyone that not all of our creditors can be paid within 45 days of invoicing us,” Mr Crawford said.

“We are working very closely with our suppliers and particularly smaller local creditors because we accept that sometimes their cash flow can be tight.

“At this point we don’t have any small suppliers not being paid within 45 days.”

Mr Crawford said only one supplier, a bakery in Port Macquarie, had decided to sever its business relationship with the NCAHS.

“No national or major suppliers have left us,” he said.

Mr Crawford said reducing costs in the support, corporate and administrative sectors were only part of the strategy to improve the service’s cash flow.

“We are working hard to generate income by identifying patients who present to our hospitals and who qualify us for rebates,” he said. “About 20 per cent of our patients have private health insurance so we are making sure we get money back from their funds. We now qualify for money when motor vehicle accident victims who are deemed at fault are admitted. Then there are the veterans and compensable patients who qualify for Workcover funds. Identifying those patients will go a long way to making sure the difference between our expenses and revenues gets smaller.”

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