Nurse sued after being paid wrong long service
THE State Government is suing a retired intensive care nurse for $40,000 in bungled long service leave payments despite Queensland Health admitting the mistake was a result of its own "system error".
Kay Boisen, who worked in public hospitals for more than 46 years including the last 21 years in intensive care, was slapped with legal action after Queensland Health miscalculated her leaving pay.
Despite Ms Boisen pleading for empathy from then-Health Minister Cameron Dick, the State Government launched legal action to reclaim the money, even relying on a legal case from 1924 to let them pursue the old debt.
The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland, which is helping Ms Boisen, said she is just one of 30 nurses it knows of being pursued by the State Government.
"I've had a stroke over this," she said.
"I feel like they're picking on me. I've worked hard all my life and I expected a stress-free retirement but this has really rocked me. It's a lot of money."
Ms Boisen said she and her colleagues in Bundaberg ICU had been hit with the 2010 payroll bungle at the same time as the Jayant Patel scandal and had worked hard to provide care for their community.
She said before retiring she repeatedly checked with the finance section to work out any overpayments hanging over from the payroll debacle and had been repeatedly assured her entitlements were enough to cover $8000 overpaid in 2010 and leave her months of long service.
But after taking the long service, she was slapped with a demand from Queensland Health for $40,000 for long service pay it admits it miscalculated, as well as the outstanding $8000 payroll bungle money.
"Due to a system error, the amount payable to the defendant for her period of long service … was multiplied four times," the government court claim says.
"The defendant received the sum of $41,806 for which she was not entitled."
The department says her entitlements would not have covered the outstanding $8000 payroll debacle money and wants more than $50,000 in total.
Ms Boisen fears she is only the tip of the iceberg, with the payroll debacle of 2010 about to rear its head for hundreds of nurses like her at retirement age with until-now hidden glitches about to hurt health staff for a second time.
A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the department would not comment on the case.
"Queensland Health does not provide comment on past employees or matters before the courts," she said.
"Any further comment on this specific case would be inappropriate."
The NPAQ's Jack McGuire said it was unfair nurses should be chased for mistakes they did not make.
"We wrote the minister asking him to show he has a heart and to release these nurses from liability," Mr McGuire said.
"We thought it only fair given the Labor government let the multi-billion dollar corporation off the hook, even though it was their mistake.
"Minister Dick's response was to double down and chase Ms Boison for the dollar value of her leave entitlement - that she was directed to take."
Mr McGuire said the demand for repayment came outside the 12 months allowed under industrial law.
"We advised Queensland Health of this and they responded saying there is no limitation and relied on a NZ case from 1924 saying it was an unlawful payment as the funds weren't appropriated from a consolidated fund," Mr McGuire said.