Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has admitted nearly 500,000 healthcare workers have yet to receive their three months’ worth of meals, accommodation and transport or MAT allowance under a presidential proclamation signed during the pandemic.
During the weekly “Talk to the People” Wednesday, Duque sought out President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of an administrative order that would provide the long-overdue allowances of about 423,000 healthcare workers.
Duque reported to the President the proposal to provide MAT allowance under Proclamation 18 for 423,000 health workers who did not receive these benefits from September 15, 2020 to December 19, 2020.
Duque said they have funds for MAT from the Department of Health’s savings worth P1.23 billion and P1.1 billion contingency funds from the Office of the President.
“This is enough to cover about P2.51 billion, where each healthcare worker would receive P2,000 per month),” said Duque.
However, since Bayanihan 2 already expired last June 2021, Duque said they would need authority from Duterte to use these funds.
Duque said they had transmitted a copy of the Administrative Order to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea that covers these assistance for health workers who did not receive the MAT benefits.
Health workers from various hospitals have protested due to the unreleased benefits over the past few months.
They said they had been risking their health on the frontlines to care for the sick, but were being deprived of some allowances due them such as the MAT, special risk allowance and active hazard duty pay.
Last month, Duterte appealed to the medical frontliners to be more understanding over the delayed release of their benefits, saying the government had to deal with equally-pressing matters as part of its COVID-19 response.
“Give us time to adjust to the finances because ang fluctuation of events hindi natin malaman kagaya nito bigla na lang. Sino ba nag-akala na mayroong pandemiya? We have to spend in a short notice, we had to collate whatever was left or whatever was available for Bayanihan 1 and 2,” Duterte said.
More than a week ago, health workers expressed deep frustration and anger after the DOH presented its “singular allowance” proposal on the COVID-19 benefits for them during a public hearing of the joint Senate Committees on Finance and Ways and Means.
Association of Health Workers National President Robert Mendoza said: “We oppose the DOH’s ‘singular allowance’ proposal for the health workers’ COVID-19 benefits because it would mean the removal of our special risk allowance , active hazard duty pay and meal, accommodation and transportation benefits.
“This scheme is indeed divisive and discriminating.”
Mendoza added the DOH’s proposal provided only one type of benefit would be provided to health workers.
“And it will be given in different categories, different amounts and worse not all health workers will be given the said benefits.”
AHW also criticized the DOH for its proposal to categorize the provision of COVID-19 related benefits for health workers into low risk, medium risk and high risk categories of exposure.
Health workers who are classified as having low risk COVID-19 exposure will receive P3K; medium risk P6K; and P9K for those who have a high-risk exposure.
“The DOH’s proposal to categorize the risk exposure of the health workers in hospitals and health facilities is completely unacceptable because the virulent virus can infect anyone. Our data showed many health workers assigned in non-COVID areas are getting infected due to lack of protection. So everyone in the vicinity of the hospital and health facility are all considered high risk to COVID-19. Thus, all health workers must receive equal COVID-19 benefits.” Mendoza explained.
Apart from that, the DOH targets only P526,727 health workers out of the 1.8 million health workers nationwide to receive the said allowance.
“We, health workers, are disgusted with the DOH led by Secretary (Francisco) Duque because instead of implementing its mandate to provide safety, protection and welfare to the health workers and likewise show compassion, concern and support in this time of crisis, he did otherwise. This adds up to the many failures and offenses that he did to the health workers. “
He said the DOH divided, deprived and lowered our morale and dignity.
“The proposal laid out at the Senate Hearing was a manifestation of Secretary Duque’s indifference to health workers safety, protection and welfare and inhumane leadership.” Mendoza said.