A bill has been filed at the House of Representatives that seeks additional allowances and benefits for health care workers during the pandemic.
Among other key provisions, House Bill 10331, or the Allowances and Benefits for Health Care Workers Act, provides “just compensation” of P1 million in case of a health care worker’s death due to COVID-19 in the line of duty.
The bill, authored by Assistant Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas also sets additional benefits of P100,000 in case of severe COVID-19 sickness, and P15,000 in case of mild or moderate COVID-19 infection.
“Amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, health care workers have been at the vanguard of protecting the health and welfare of the general public as they risk their lives to serve and provide care especially for COVID-19 infected patients,” Vargas said in the bill’s explanatory note.
He said while added benefits are already provided by law, there is a need “to augment and strengthen these efforts and to properly recognize and compensate our heroes.”
“It is imperative to increase the benefits and allowances that our health care workers receive during this public health crisis,” he added.
The Vargas bill also sets a fixed monthly COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance for every month served during the state of national emergency in addition to the hazard pay granted under Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
The bill also gives health care workers monthly Active Hazard Duty Pay, and in case of exposure to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease, full coverage for all medical expenses by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth).
The bill also extends life insurance, accommodation, transportation, and meals, or their cash equivalent, to health workers on active duty during the pandemic.
The benefits under the Vargas bill “shall have retroactive application from July 1, 2021, and shall be exempt from income tax.”
The added allowances and benefits cover all healthcare workers “who are engaged in health and health related work in health facilities during the state of public health emergency due to the COVID- 19 pandemic.”
The bill defines health care workers as “medical, allied health professional, administrative and support personnel, employed regardless of their employment status.”
“It is the hope of this measure to provide better working conditions and benefits for health care workers in the country that would cater to their needs and welfare which would in turn inspire and encourage them to serve in the country in the long run,” Vargas said.
In related developments, the National Police (PNP) and the Department of Health have signed a memorandum of agreement on the deployment of police medical personnel to hospitals experiencing a surge in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
PNP chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar said the agreement would “concretize collaborative efforts in the implementation of the said program.”
Shortly after the MOA signing ceremony, 10 nurses of the PNP Health Service were formally deployed to the DOH.
“The existing manpower of hospitals is not enough to cater to the health care needs of severe and critical Covid-19 positive patients hence we are thankful for the additional support and manpower from the PNP who will be assigned in Covid wards,” DOH-National Capital Region Director Gloria J. Balboa said
Balboa also thanked the PNP for its steadfast commitment to assist the government’s pandemic response efforts.
Eleazar, meanwhile, said the PNP was more than prepared to support government programs for the promotion of health and for the benefit of the Filipino people.
“This pandemic has taken a toll on our beloved organization as many of our police front-liners have been infected and lost their lives due to this pandemic, yet we stood our ground without hesitation in selflessly serving our community and we shall continue to do so,” he added.
Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte appealed to the medical personnel of the police and the military to help hospitals that are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients.
In related developments, the Armed Forces of the Philippines deployed eight nurses to augment the healthcare workforce of the Lung Center of the Philippines in caring for COVID-19 patients.
AFP Surgeon General, Col. Fatima Claire Navarro led the send-off ceremony for the Nurse Corps Officers at the Lung Center of the Philippines in Quezon City.
“We are all equally affected by the impact of the pandemic but in situations when our fellow healthcare workers are feeling low, a friend or even a stranger who will extend sincere help expecting nothing in return, maybe the beacon of hope,” Navarro said.
While noting that infectious diseases or pandemics cannot be eliminated, Navarro said military medical personnel can be the helping hand while “awaiting our return to the new normal”.
Two teams from the AFP Nurse Corps will undergo one month of deployment in accordance with the memorandum of agreement entered into by the AFP and the Department of Health.
The first is an all-reservists team composed of 2nd Lt. Federico Muyco, 2nd Lt. Joey Cabaluna, and 2nd Lt. Laviña Augusto while the second team is composed of 1st Lt. Fernando Velarde, 2nd Lt. Raul Ramos, 2nd Lt. Abner Andamon, 2nd Lt. Chrissen Valmonte, and 2nd Lt. Leslie Ann Muñez.
Four of the nurses were previously deployed in Davao while two came from Cebu and two others from the V. Luna Medical Center.
All of the Nurse Corps officers tested negative of COVID-19 prior to their deployment and will undergo the same RT-PCR testing every two weeks for monitoring.
The teams’ deployment will be reviewed before the end of their assignment if there will be a need for an extension.
Meanwhile, the AFP announced it had launched the “Dugong Kawal-Blood Donor Network” last October 8.
The “Dugong Kawal-Blood Donor Network” is a Facebook group initiated by AFP Deputy Chief-of-Staff for Operations, Maj. Gen. Edgardo de Leon, with the program being implemented by the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel.
It was created to provide AFP personnel with a platform to immediately communicate and respond to their blood needs.
It is open to all active officers and enlisted personnel, permanent civilian employees, and their dependents, the group aims to ease coordination among members.
The group allows any AFP personnel in need of blood to request for themselves, fellow personnel, or their dependents.
Nearby members may signify their intent to donate to the requesting party through the group and talk about the details of the donation such as location and other requirements.
This group will create a pool of blood donors in the AFP that will serve as the public domain of information and channel for obtaining matches for personnel in need of blood.
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