Health workers yesterday demanded Congress to prioritize health workers’ safety, protection, welfare, and people’s health by increasing the 2022 health budget as they staged a rally in front of the House of Representatives.
This developed as an organization of nurses rejected Tuesday the Department of Health’s proposal for a “singular allowance” as it would reduce their current monetary benefits.
Filipino Nurses United president Maristela Abenojar, in an interview with Teleradyo, called the proposal “meager, divisive and unfair.”
The FNU said the so-called singular allowance would remove health workers’ active hazard duty pay worth P3,000, special risk allowance worth P5,000, and meal, accommodation, and transportation benefits worth P8,000.
The DOH is proposing monthly allocations of P3,000 to health workers with low exposure or those assigned to areas without patients; P6,000 on medium exposure or those handling non-COVID-19 patients; and P9,000 on high exposure or directly caring COVID-19 patients.
In the Senate, lawmakers honored the country’s physicians for their invaluable service and sacrifices particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Resolution 916, introduced by Senators Sonny Angara, Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Grace Poe, Nancy Binay, Joel Villanueva, and Sherwin Gatchalian recognizes and commends the physicians for their bravery in attending to the sick during the outbreak of COVID-19 even if it meant exposing themselves to the deadly virus.
The resolution was adopted on Sept. 27, National Physician’s Day, to make its commemoration even more meaningful “considering what they have been dealing with since the COVID-19 outbreak in March of 2020.”
However, AHW national president Robert Mendoza said next year’s DOH budget is a manifestation of the Duterte administration’s “complete abandonment” for the health and safety of the people and the blatant disregard for the health workers’ safety, protection, and well-being.
He noted that the proposed DOH budget for 2022 is akin to allotting only P3.86 per Filipino per day.
“It can’t even buy a vitamin tablet to help boost our immune system to fight the deadly virus,” he added.
“It seems they are shortchanging the health workers. It’s already irksome because they were already delayed in giving [the benefits] during the Bayanihan 1 and 2 and until now not everyone has received it and this comes,” Abenojar said.
The recommended DOH budget, Mendoza said, only comprises 4.81% or P242 billion of the total proposed P5.024 trillion National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2022.
The actual DOH budget under the Office of the Secretary allotment is only P 157 billion, while the big chunk of the proposed budget is appropriated for the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) with P79.9 billion.
“With so many people getting sick and admitted at the hospital, the government callously cut the hospital’s budget,” AHW said.
Next year’s DOH budget intends to cut the budget on Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) of COVID-19 referral hospitals like Philippine General Hospital (PGH) – cut by P130 million in spite of its increased bed capacity to 320 for COVID-19 patients from 220 beds — and Lung Center of the Philippines (LCP), cut by P100 million,” related Mendoza.
“Cutting the MOOE of LCP and PGH as COVID-19 referral hospitals is like Calvary to many COVID-19 patients because they have to pay more for their hospitalization, since the PPEs used by the health personnel during their treatment are not free of charge now,” he stressed.
Because of unavailability of COVID-19 medications in the hospitals, Mendoza said patients are now forced to buy very expensive COVID-19 medicines outside the hospital.
Moreover, he said identified COVID-19 Referral Centers like PGH, Dr. Jose N. Rodriguez Memorial Hospital and Sanitarium, East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC), Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and LCP have zero Capital Outlay (CO) to address the necessary COVID-19 needs.
The non-allocation of the Capital Outlay (CO) of the COVID-19 referral hospitals means there will be no augmentation for health facilities and medical equipment like the purchase of more mechanical ventilators and oxygen hi-flow in order to save more lives of the COVID-19 patients.
“For almost two years now, we, health workers have been at the forefront risking our health and safety in battling COVID-19 pandemic and many have succumbed fighting the virus. Yet it is so demoralizing that the DOH and Duterte government has not even allocated a budget for our COVID-19 benefits for 2022.” Mendoza stressed.
“Worst, provision for the health workers’ safety and protection like regular RT-PCR tests and other examinations for COVID-19, as well as regular supply of adequate and complete PPEs are not indicated in the DOH budget.” he said.
Abenojar said health workers were being treated as “sacrificial lambs” as the government had little regard to their lives and sacrifice.