Grafton Hospital’s Dr Allan Tyson with Steve Cansdell and Phil Clare.
Grafton Hospital’s Dr Allan Tyson with Steve Cansdell and Phil Clare. JoJo Newby

Surplus to help hospital needs

A GRAFTON doctor is “gob-smacked” at a waste of health resources, revealed when he inspected orthopaedic surgical equipment stored in a shipping container at Red Rock.

The chairman of Grafton Base Hospital Medical Council, Dr Allan Tyson, said he had no idea why Red Rock businessman Phil Clare should have so much usable medical equipment in his possession.

“Just as a taxpayer I am virtually speechless to think that this equipment could be in private hands,” Dr Tyson said.

Dr Tyson was part of a group of hospital staff that Clarence MP Steve Cansdell asked to inspect the equipment at Mr Clare’s Red Rock headquarters.

Mr Clare made the offer after he read in The Daily Examiner that Mr Cansdell was looking for $300,000 to completely outfit the new orthopaedic surgery at Grafton Base Hospital.

“At first I thought it was an April Fools’ Day prank,” Dr Tyson said.

“Steve (Cansdell) rang me and asked if I could go down and have a look at this stuff.

“I thought it would be a few bits of rusting equipment in a crate.

“I found racks of equipment still in sterile wraps, stored in a purpose-built, air-conditioned shipping container.”

Dr Tyson said the equipment, which included stainless steel and titanium hip replacements, specialist machinery and consumables, could be valued anywhere between $2 and $3 million.

However, many items could not be used because of health compliance problems.

“There is no practical reason why they couldn’t be used. It’s just that hospitals must have paperwork that tracks their use and handling before they can put them into people,” Dr Tyson said.

Mr Clare’s company, Intheshed Asset Management (ITSAM) had contracts with NSW Health to dispose of surplus assets for area health services around the State.

Mr Clare has made the donation despite his payment wrangle with NSW Health, which is reluctant to pay invoices totalling more than $2.5 million for work ITSAM completed in the past six years.

“I could have charged Grafton Hospital $100,000, maybe more, for the stuff they wanted,” Mr Clare said. “The money would have been really handy.

“But that’s not what I’m about. What I’ve been about ever since I did my pilot project for Greater Southern Area Health is saving health dollars and cutting waste.”

Mr Clare became aware of this waste around six years ago when he was having cancer treatment at Coffs Harbour Hospital.

He said the old hospital was closing and moving to the new health campus, and NSW Health was looking to offload its surplus equipment.

“Because I was there I found out I could get the lot for $14,000,” he said.

Mr Clare thought $14,000 was a pretty good deal, but soon found out it was a great one.

“When the health campus opened they needed to outfit it and were looking around for all this equipment.

“I sold a fraction of the stuff I had bought from them back to them for more than $200,000.”

Since then Mr Clare has found that sort of practice is commonplace. He said most of the equipment came from a Sydney hospital that was prepared to trash it.

“I don’t want to name the hospital, but they just wanted to get rid of this old stuff because they wanted to buy new stuff,” he said.

Mr Clare said NSW Health had created a huge problem by deciding not to asset manage any item costing less than $10,000.

“We’ve got a box of 20 hip replacements worth around $900 to $1000 each,” he said.

“Now that would be an order of $20,000, but each item would be costed individually.”

Mr Clare said he found the system awash with material health management had no idea it possessed.

The root of the problem was a “use it or lose it” mentality in area health services.

“Health services know that if they don’t spend their budget allocation then they lose it the next year,” he said.

Over the years ITSAM has provided NSW Health with reports detailing savings it could make.

These reports have also alerted NSW Health to serious compliance issues with Occupational Health and Safety obligations in a number of hospitals, including Royal North Shore.

The Daily Examiner will publish Mr Clare’s findings, including alleged mishandling of asbestos at two Sydney hospitals, in due course.

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