Dec 06, 2021

Victorian nurses and health workers miss out on bonus payment promised during pandemic

Nurses miss out on COVID payments

Around $2,000 in Hospital Surge Support Allowance payments are still owed to some employees within the public health provider Eastern Health, including nurses in the Box Hill Hospital’s COVID-19 ward. 

A measure to support and encourage health professionals, the state government brought forward an extra $60 payment per shift, aimed at public hospital and Ambulance Victoria personnel. A vital move coming at a time in mid-October when COVID cases were significantly elevating and hospitals were pressured during Victoria’s Delta outbreak. 

Speaking about the impact of this additional bonus, multiple Eastern Health workers have spoken to the ABC saying the tax-free amount, up to $300 a week, would have gone a long way. 

They described feeling that the bonuses were a small reward in honouring placing themselves at risk of contracting COVID-19 and for working hard, through long shifts, outfitted in complete PPE gear. 

Many Eastern Health staff have described being paid a fortnight’s amount of the allowance this past week, while a majority of about six weeks’ of allowance is still unaccounted for. 

“We’re putting ourselves in danger … hundreds of us haven’t been paid [the allowance],” another conveyed.

“You get sick of being treated like dirt.”

The death of an Eastern Health employee this week, an emergency department nurse who contracted COVID-19, is a clear indication of the current dangers of working in the health care sector, the nurses said.   

Eastern Health blames an administrative delay for the incomplete payments.

A spokesman for Eastern Health has said in a statement that staff were paid their regular salaries on time, however, “an administrative delay in paying the Hospital Surge Support Allowance” had occurred.

Continuing, they said, “This is being corrected with back pay being issued in the coming pay period.”

Eastern Health did not respond to queries regarding how many staff throughout its network had missed out on the timely payment of the allowance. Hospitals in Box Hill, Ringwood East, Upper Ferntree Gully and Healesville may have been affected. 

Lisa Fitzpatrick, the Victorian secretary of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), weighed in saying it was “frustrating” that hospitals were taking a considerable time to pay out the allowance owed.

“The hospital support surge allowance is an important $255 million package [that] ANMF negotiated with the Andrews Government to ensure nurses and midwives – and others – caring for patients and performing other roles in health services on the pandemic frontline, do not feel taken for granted.”

The active period for the bonus payments is concluding at the end of February. 

Further upset has been expressed by personnel in private sector hospitals, who received public system COVID-19 patients, as these personnel were told they were not eligible to receive the allowance. 

Lobbying is underway by the nurses union for the state government to implement the allowance for private hospital personnel as well, who assisted with public sector patients, as well as public aged care and mental health personnel. The ABC reached out to the Victorian government for comment.

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  1. If this underpayment of wages is still a problem, as a lawyer, I would be happy to advise pro bono and explore what might be done in court to expedite the payment.

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