Health Minister says sorry

HEALTH Minister Paul Lucas yesterday apologised to the Fraser Coast's 1535 Queensland Health workers, many of whom have not been paid, or paid correctly, for up to five months.

“I unreservedly offer my apologies and sympathy to all staff who have been affected by the payroll issue,” Mr Lucas told the Chronicle.

“Staff have the right to be paid properly.”

The Deputy Premier's apology comes in the wake of the Chronicle's revelation on Wednesday that staff in this region are losing hope in their employer over the health pay debacle.

They have also told the Chronicle they are losing their homes, their marriages – and it is understood a staffer may have committed suicide over his financial and family predicament.

“Whilst we have seen a significant improvement in the most recent pay run, I have made it clear that we will not rest until we have a pay system that works for our valuable QH staff,” Mr Lucas added.

Staff have had to borrow money soon after the new system started on March 8, to cope with their day-to-day survival and Mr Lucas said that “if any QH employee has been forced to borrow money rather than have their pay adjusted then I want to know so I can take immediate action”.

“I have made it clear from day one that no one should need to borrow money if their pay is not right. We have mechanisms in place for immediate payment.”

QH corporate services deputy director-general Michael Walsh said the department's new payroll system, that has caused the meltdown in paying workers, had cost $64.5 million.

“A payroll stabilisation project team was established in QH on April 19. As at July 14, the cost of the project stabilisation project was $4.3 million.

“Employees who have been underpaid can receive emergency assistance either through a cash advance or through an ad hoc payment.

“Cash advances are arranged through finance and are required to be repaid. They do not appear on pay slips and do not incur tax.

“No interest is paid on either cash advances or ad hoc payments.”

Staff say they have been told the problem with the payroll system may take until Christmas to fix.

“It also means many of us can't file our tax returns because we don't know what we've earned in the previous financial year, now going into this new year,” one worker said yesterday.

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