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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I did not get paid by Queensland Health this fortnight

I just love bureaucracy.
I have been employed in Queensland since 1st September 2001 (about 11 years I guess). Its complex. I am a Professor at The University of Queensland, but also Clinical Director for Child and Youth Mental Health Services under the umbrella of Royal Children's Hospital (now under the umbrella of Queensland Children's Health Services, under the overall umbrella of Queensland Health). I have done two 5-year stints as Professor, but last time some bureaucrat at QH decided to renew me only for 3 years on the somewhat spurious grounds that I am classified primarily as a researcher. This is odd, because I have always thought of myself as primarily a child psychiatrist, a clinician, supervisor, teacher and manager. But 'they' (whoever they were) were adamant (maybe they had begun to think I am reaching my Use By Date).
So, most of my salary is part of a contract between QH and UQ and paid as a direct debit by UQ. No problem, it has happened routinely every month for eleven years. But I am also paid a clinical loading direct from Queensland Health, which includes extra payments when I am on call. This is where things get sticky, because as a result of the payroll disaster in QH there have been four episodes in the last eighteen months months where I have not been paid. It has always been up to me to sort that out...
I did not get paid for the last fortnight, which was slightly irritating. Jan said: "They will sort it out. You will only spend hours on the phone and get frustrated." I had a feeling that something was not quite right so I got on the phone.
Royal Children's Hospital (where I physically work) did not have a direct phone line for 'Payroll' registered in any listing I accessed. And the Queensland Government payroll form with lots of zeros in empty spaces sent to me by post, has no access telephone numbers. So I had to go through Royal Brisbane Hospital (RBH) switchboard; they do after all share a common campus with RCH, even if you have to get credentialed for each hospital separately if you are on call for both children and adolescents 14 and over, who are dealt with separately even if on the same campus. OK, that's another story.
So, after listening to muzak for 3 minutes ("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I explained politely to Switch at RBH who put me through to Payroll at RCH. Well actually they put me through to Queensland Health 'Shared Service Partner' who handle all payrolls apparently. After waiting on the phone for 8 minutes ("all our operators are busy at the moment....")("all our operators are busy at the moment....")("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I was joined by a very pleasant young man who took my details, typed them carefully into some computer - which could not find me! Somewhat perplexed, he explained that he was physically based at The Prince Charles Hospital (5 Kms up the road), who manage the payroll for Royal Brisbane Hospital but not for Royal Children's Hospital. He spoke to a supervisor, who noted I am on 'a contract', and Royal Children's Hospital handle their own contract staff payroll. So (having wished me 'a nice day'), he went to transfer me to RCH. The process failed, and (again somewhat perplexed) he came back on line to suggest I phoned the number direct. HE GAVE ME THE NUMBER (Gold Dust!!) which I have now squirrelled away for next time.
So, having listened to some more lovely muzak for a minute or so ("all our operators are busy at the moment...."), I spoke to a delightful young lady who took all my details and put them into her computer. She double checked the numbers, and came back several moments later, saying "I am so sorry, you're 'medical', and RCH does not handle medical contracts. Ipswich Hospital does that" (about 40 Kms down the road). So, having wished me 'a nice day' she gave me a number for Ipswich Hospital (which I have squirrelled away for next time).
I phoned immediately and, joy of joys, I got through immediately. Very nice young man took all my details and put them into his computer, checking that he had things right. "Oh", he said, "you're mental!" Well no, I am NOT mental, but I am a mental health worker. He laughed. "Have you worked any hours in the last fortnight, because there is nothing coming up on our system". Well, yes, I am known to work rather long hours in the service of my patients, and have been doing so since my arrival in Queensland. "Just hold on while I transfer you to Linda - she handles 'those'". ('Those' must be some sort of mental medical contract labourer who does not work much at all). More muzak.... "Look I am sorry but Linda is busy with another client. Can I have your number and I will ask her to call you back". I gave him my mobile number (not paid for by Queensland Health). "OK, thanks for calling. Have a nice day." Mmmm.
No Queensland Health phone ever gives you the number in case you want to phone back at some time. This can be problematic if you are one of those people who is wary of 'blocked' number calls, because you can choose not to answer on the grounds you do not know them. On this occasion I took the risk when, a couple of minutes later, a delightful lady with a light Glaswegian accent phoned using a 'blocked' line. "Did you work at all in the last two weeks?" I am always working. "Ok, mmm...., Oh, I can see what happened. The 'system' is supposed to give us a reminder every 6 months to 'renew' your contract. But no reminder came through". Well, I am to be employed for about the next 18 months until I retire; what can you do so I don't have this rigmarole again?  "I will have to work out a system to remind our system to remind us. I will fix it all up, and you should have a cheque in the bank within a couple of days - well, as long as you are with one of the big four banks..." I am... "OK, have a nice day..."

Jan you were right!
I did get frustrated, but if I had not spent 37 minutes on the phone, I would have stayed on their 'mental medical contract labourer' for weeks until someone noticed, and then it would have been Christmas! I just hope 'they' are prepared to pay me for the 37 minutes I wasted on their stupid payroll system.

Don't suppose any of you young things remember Flanders and Swan and "The day the gasman came to call"....

Don't you just love bureaucracy... ?

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