Congress OKs bill giving mandatory benefits for health workers

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2022 12:21 AM

MANILA - Congress approved on Wednesday the consolidated Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act which grants additional compensation to health workers during public health emergencies.

Both the House and the Senate ratified the bicameral conference committee report on the 2 chambers’ respective versions of the proposal which seeks to institutionalize the grant of special risk allowances.

This paves the way for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign the bill into law.

The consolidated bill grants a Health Emergency Allowance to be given monthly to health workers depending on their risk exposure. Those considered low risk get P3,000, medium risk get P6,000 and high risk get P9,000 each.

According to a briefer from the office of House Health Committee Chair Helen Tan, one of the heads of the bicameral panel, instead of the itemized benefits such as MAT (Meal Accommodation and Transportation, Special Risk Allowance, Actual Hazard Duty Pay), the Department of Budget and Management recommended a lumpsum benefit on top of what the health workers are receiving under existing laws, such as those in Magna Carta for Public Health Workers.

The briefer said that the amounts can also be increased which must take into consideration the necessary expenses that may be incurred by a health worker. Tan added this provision to ensure that the amounts that the health workers would receive will be commensurate to what they will be needing to protect and sustain themselves during a public health emergency.

Meanwhile, those who get sick of COVID 19 in the line of duty will get P1 million in case of death, P100,000 in case of severe or critical COVID-19 and P15,000 in case of mild or moderate COVID-19.

The bill also mandates full coverage by the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation for direct health care costs for future public health emergencies, subject to availability of funds and HTAC (Health Technology Assessment Council) Assessment.

It also mandates PhilHealth-covered regular testing as often as necessary to be determined by the Department of Health.

The law would benefit health care and non-health care workers in the public and private sector, allied medical sectors, and administrative and technical support assigned in hospitals, health facilities, laboratories, temporary treatment monitoring facilities or vaccination sites. 

It will include those included in the COVID-19 response and outsourced personnel hired under institutional or individual contracts like guards and janitors.

The final version of the bill also mandates retroactive Application from July 1, 2021 and effective during the state of national public emergency. 

It also creates a grievance mechanism to mediate complaints on claiming of allowances and compensation.

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