About 50 percent of health workers still have not yet received their COVID-19 response benefits and allowances, a health workers group on Tuesday said.
Jao Clumia, spokesperson of the Private Health Workers Alliance of the Philippines, said they already talked with several officials from the Department of Health (DOH) who told them that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has not yet released the budget for such.
“Almost 50 percent of healthcare workers still haven’t received it. Most of those who received their benefits only got one month worth of benefits out of the six months stated in the law. That’s the problem because they just kept on promising,” he said.
DOH officer-in-charge Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said last week that they were still negotiating with the DBM for additional funds for healthcare workers’ One COVID Allowance (OCA) so that they can pay for other healthcare workers who have not received theirs.
The DBM said in a statement on Thursday that it sent DOH a response letter on June 8, asking them to address the deficiencies on the documentary requirements they submitted pertaining to a P63-billion budget request.
“DOH replied to us on July 15, but they were only able to address and substantiate documents that are related to unpaid COVID-19 sickness and death claims for FY 2020 and 2021 worth P570 million, which enabled us to release the same amount in August,” the DBM said.
“As long as DOH can address the deficiencies in the documentary requirements, DBM will immediately process the request to release funds, based on available budget,” it added.
DBM also said it was able to release to DOH a total of P7.9 billion in February 2022 to cover One COVID allowance of both healthcare and non-healthcare workers.
Pending the release of their supposed benefits, Clumia said many healthcare workers have opted to resign and look for another job, while some left the country for overseas employment.
Speaking before nurses last week, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. admitted that benefits given to nurses are not enough, considering their services and sacrifices to ensure the health of the public.
He said that as of August 19, 2022, the government has disbursed P25.82 billion worth of benefits for nurses including hazard duty pay, COVID-19 sickness and death compensation, meals, accommodation and transportation allowances, life insurance, Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and COVID-19 allowance.
However, Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) president Melvin Miranda said nurses have also not received the benefits that Marcos said have already been disbursed./Willie Casas
Some health worker groups on Tuesday meanwhile held a protest action outside
the DOH headquarters along Rizal Avenue in Manila over what they described as the “dire” state of the country’s healthcare system.
The groups, comprised of employees’ unions from private and public hospitals in Metro Manila, held a picket near the DOH main office’s gates to denounce the department’s alleged lack of urgency in releasing their COVID-19 benefits such as the One COVID Allowance (OCA) and Health Emergency Allowance (HEA).
The groups criticized the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for seemingly pointing at each other for the release of health workers’ benefits.
In related news, the DOH said Monday the agency supports the proposed increase in the entry salary for nurses to P50,000 per month, but stressed that a law should be passed to provide a budget for it.
Vergeire however, pointed out that only the government’s legislative branch could address this problem as far as the budget is concerned.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. himself earlier agreed that benefits accorded to nurses are not enough, considering their services and sacrifices to ensure the health of the public.
The President noted that as of August 19, 2022, the government has disbursed P25.82 billion worth of benefits for nurses including hazard duty pay, COVID-19 sickness and death compensation, meals, accommodation and transportation allowances, life insurance, Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and COVID-19 allowance.
Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) president Melvin Miranda, however, said nurses have not received the benefits that Marcos said have already been disbursed.
Based on the National Expenditure Program (NEP) submitted to the House of Representatives, the DOH is seeking a budget of P195 billion for 2023—close to P8 billion more than its P187.84-billion budget for the current fiscal year.