Implementing the new Public Sector Agreement has seen elements like the payment of back pay and the employment of more psychologists and pharmacists continuing to be sources of major frustration.

We are increasingly frustrated by the number of public Health Services who are incapable of paying members what they are owed in back pay.

It’s now three months since the new Agreement came into force, and it is bewildering that public Health Services have not yet finished processing backpays. In some cases, we are being told that back pay will not be finalised and paid until late March and early April.

Instead of pledging to do a better job and get the back pays sorted out faster, we’re being given excuses about difficulties with payroll software or that other agreements came in adding to administrative delays.

Health Services have known that there would be back pay arising from the new Agreement.

They’ve had more than enough time, approximately 12 months since the heads of agreement was signed, to prepare and get ready to determine and process back pay.

It is extremely frustrating for us that some members have not been paid their back pay. It is also not helping that these same Health Services seem incapable of communicating with their own staff about when back pay is expected to be paid.

The Union certainly encourages members that have not yet been paid their back pay to contact their Health Service’s chief executive officer. Let them know you are frustrated you haven’t been paid your back pay but be sure to be polite about it.

At the same time, the Union is dealing with Health Services who continue to think they can delay what they will implement from our Agreement.

Aside from the situation surrounding back pay, the other most pressing issue is the failure by Health Services to begin advertising for psychologist and pharmacist roles.

We remain bewildered by Health Services’ refusal to begin recruiting more psychologists and pharmacists. It is part of our agreement, and we expect health services to comply with our agreement. Frankly, there is no choice.

Just like the issue around back pay, this is another issue that Health Services knew was coming.

They understood, or so we thought, that inclusion of additional psychologists and pharmacists was to address workload issues.

With the recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Victoria’s Mental Health System, the need for more psychologists to treat the growing number of people presenting with mental health needs is very clear.

It is also difficult to understand why Health Services have not begun recruiting for more pharmacists.

There is a clear shortage in pharmacists, with work during the bargaining process revealing the very real shortages in pharmacist numbers and the failure of most Health Services to meet the recommended pharmacist ratios developed by the Society of Hospital Pharmacists Australia.

The excuse we are given is there is a lack of funding, or they that have to prepare business cases to justify recruiting more psychologists and pharmacists.

Frankly these excuses are boring and don’t stack up.

Since the Victorian Government signed off on the increases in psychologist and pharmacist numbers, there is no reason to hold up recruiting. Health Services will have the funds, but they have to start the process of recruitment.

It is also troubling from a public health point of view.

Our public Health Services need more psychologists to deal with the rapid increase in Victorians needing assistance with their mental health and mental health care. More pharmacists are needed to ensure they can safely care for patients and administer the care of patients leaving hospital, along with the fact that more is being expected of pharmacists.

By failing to recruit more psychologists and pharmacists, as required under our Agreement, Heatlh Services are locking in extreme workloads, putting the health and safety of members at risk.

Having such massive workloads has an impact on your own health.

It can lead to exhaustion, depression, and greater levels of job dissatisfaction, which ultimately impacts on the quality and quantity of work being done.

We will continue to press Health Services and the Department of Health about these issues, however, in the meantime please let us know if you have not received your back pay and/or if you have seen advertising for psychologist and pharmacist roles for your health service.

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