Businessman takes on Govt

NSW HEALTH might be prepared to bully small contractors into silence when it refuses to pay them, but when the role is reversed the health bureaucrats show their true colours.

In recent years, Red Rock businessman Phil Clare, through a company called DoxBox, has stored the foetal records from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in a warehouse in Ultimo. There are 70,000 of these records, dating back more than 20 years, stored in 14 pallets full of document boxes.

Since NSW Health has refused to pay another of Mr Clare's companies, Intheshed Asset Management, around $2million in outstanding invoices, cashflow problems have started to surface.

This week the landlord of the Ultimo warehouse storing the medical records wants payment of nearly $21,000 or he will take possession of the contents.

When NSW Health heard of this, it sent the bureaucrats reaching for the chequebook.

Although these same bureaucrats have been able to dredge up all sorts of reasons to delay Mr Clare's payments and even to blacklist his companies from future work with the government, they had no qualms about handing over $21,000 when they thought it might get them out of trouble.

Mr Clare's cashflow problems makes NSW Health's offer of $21,000 meaningless.

“The bank wants to foreclose on me in the middle of next week,” he told The Daily Examiner yesterday.

“What's the use of paying $21,000 to my landlord to get NSW Health off the hook if the bank forecloses on me?”

Mr Clare seems to think the trouble they seek to avoid is some damning revelations in these records that indicate between 25% and 30% of the patients – pregnant women and their unborn babies – had been exposed to tuberculosis.

In addition, it is another example of the culture of waste that Mr Clare has found in his dealings with NSW Health.

He said his original brief with handling hospital records was to have them digitised, enabling easier storage and computerised retrieval of the information.

“When they got the quote for scanning in the records – $20,000 – and they compared it to storage – $2000 a year – they opted for storage.

“But this is where the waste is. Hospitals pay millions for data retrieval.”

Late yesterday Mr Clare received a letter from NSW Health chief procurement officer David Gates.

The third paragraph of that letter warns Mr Clare that ITSAM must release the records or face the consequences of breaching Principle 5 of the Health Records and Information Privacy Act 2002.

But Mr Clare is reluctant to release such a bargaining chip easily.

“RPA is jewel in the crown of South Sydney Western Area Health Service and they owe us $309,300,” he said.

Instead Mr Clare has informed Mr Gates that NSW Health should enter into a payment schedule with ITSAM.

“We've told them they can put aside $300,000 to cover any shortfalls. The rest they can pay us in three $535,581 instalments each fortnight from April 8,” Mr Clare said.

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