Practitioners adamant $15m not owed

Dean Millar-Coote
Dean Millar-Coote
The independent practitioner association at the centre of a multimillion-dollar dispute remains adamant it owes nothing to the Southern District Health Board.

The Otago Daily Times reported at the weekend the Auditor-general's office expects the board to resolve the dispute with Dunedin-based South Link Health (SLH) ''without further delay''.

Dating from the 1990s, the figure has ballooned from $5.3 million to possibly about $15 million with interest. It arose from disagreement about whether savings from contracts had to be returned.

It was referred to in SLH's 2012 financial statement as a $14.4 million contingent liability. SLH chairman Dr Dean Millar-Coote said listing a contingent liability fulfilled an auditing requirement to identify possible liabilities.

''This [contingent liability] does not indicate any acknowledgement by SLH that any monies are owed to the SDHB. Quite the reverse - SLH is adamant that no money is owed to the SDHB; it has all been spent on additional healthcare programmes and enhanced health practitioner training, as provided for in the contracts.''

The dispute related to contracts between SLH and the then Southern Regional Health Authority, a predecessor of the health board.

''A dispute has arisen between SLH and the [health authority] funder, as to whether or not the funder had agreed that the additional health programmes should be approved for funding from the savings made by the SLH general practices.

''SLH is clear that the programmes had been agreed to by various contract managers representing the funder.

''SLH is also very clear that no money is owed by it to the Southern DHB and this is borne out by all of the contract documents, between SLH and the funder of the day,'' Dr Millar-Coote said.

The savings were returned to the community via health programmes and medical and nursing training, he said, adding the SLH board hoped the matter would be concluded soon.

Health board chairman Joe Butterfield told the Otago Daily Times last week he hoped the situation would be ''clarified'' in the new year.

-eileen.goodwin@odt.co.nz

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