Shock $170k dental bill leaves patients out of pocket

A GULMARRAD pensioner wants changes to the law after he has been left $3761 out of pocket because an orthodontist he engaged to do dental work on his daughter died before he completed the work.

Edward Steele said the Clarence orthodontist, Christiaan Van Vuuren, had died of cancer in October last year and late last this month liquidators revealed there was not enough money in the estate to cover the costs of work his customers had paid for, but he had not completed before his death.

Mr Steele paid $6000 up front and said he would have to pay twice for some of the work after he discovered there was no requirement for the business to quarantine money paid in advance for dental work.

"It appeared the money could be distributed among the directors without being linked to the patients whose dental work it covered," he said.

In late August, liquidators Robson Cotter Insolvency Group sent a letter to creditors of Mr Van Vuuren's company, Thauman Pty Ltd.

It revealed it could not reimburse almost $170,000 to 82 Clarence Valley customers who had paid up front for work that had not been completed.

Each patient had $100-$4465 work outstanding at the time of Mr Van Vuuren's death.

It said Mr Van Vuuren and three family members were directors of Thauman Pty Ltd, that went into voluntary liquidation after his death. Mr Van Vuuren was the managing director and the only practising orthodontist in the company.

It said the directors attempted to transfer the practice after the death, but were unable to.

Mr Steele contacted an orthodontist who was willing to do the work on the understanding the estate would pay for it.

"He was good enough to take on the job on those terms. When he heard about the liquidation he told me he would just have to wear it.

"I told him 'No way'. I would find the $3700 even though it would mean paying twice."

Mr Steele contacted Clarence MP Chris Gulaptis, detailing his issues and what he wants to see changed.

"I felt cheated when I found out that he was dying of cancer when he accepted my payment in advance," he said.

"They offered me a discount of 5 per cent for paying ahead of time, but if I had known the true situation, I would have taken the option of paying in instalments."

He questioned how the company, which knew of Mr Van Vuuren's diagnosis, could have built up almost $170,000 in service commitments in the months before he died.