Nov 29, 2009

NSW hospital lost $24m, research at risk

A major Sydney hospital has been forced to review how it invests donations and grants after losing $24 million, putting research projects in jeopardy.

St Vincent's Hospital has admitted losing 30 per cent of $80 million invested in a trust fund during the global financial crisis.

The fund was made up of public donations, government grants and doctors' earnings.

The hospital released a statement on Friday confirming the loss but said it had received independent external advice which supported the "appropriateness of its investment decision".

"St Vincent's has, however, since reviewed its investment strategy ... to prevent a reoccurrence in any future market downturn and is now investing only in guaranteed major bank bills and deposits," the statement said.

"These losses are extremely disappointing for all of us on the St Vincent's Campus.

"We guarantee that no front line hospital services will be impacted by these losses."

But the Australian Salaried Medical Officers Federation's (ASMOF) NSW president, Tony Sara, has called for an investigation, saying hospitals cannot "gamble away vital funds".

He said staff had undertaken research on the understanding that the money was secure.

"The difficulty is when grants funds have been lost it is very likely that research projects will be prejudiced," Dr Sara told reporters.

"On the balance of probabilities you would have to say that some research projects are likely to be prejudiced."

He said among the money lost were doctors' personal earnings.

If those personal funds are not returned, he said ASMOF would pursue the matter in the Industrial Relations Commission.

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