'Serious neglect': Senators flag DOH for delayed P1M aid for every health worker who died of COVID-19

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 02 2020 08:04 PM | Updated as of Jun 02 2020 09:16 PM

A health worker demonstrates the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) donning procedure during a Health Workers Seminar at the Ynares Event Center, on April 22, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Several senators on Tuesday hit the Department of Health (DOH) for the delayed implementation of a Bayanihan Act provision that guaranteed P1-million compensation for health workers who died due to the coronavirus, and P100,000 for those who got severely ill due to the disease.

The provision was not implemented as the DOH has yet to craft the program's implementing rules and regulations (IRR), nearly 3 months since the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act was passed, Angara said in plenary when asked about the status of the assistance for health workers.

"That is serious neglect... It's quite upsetting to find out that so many months have gone with the DOH not crafting the IRR. So many health workers have suffered, whether they died or are severly afflicted," Angara said.

"I think it should be paid as soon as possible... It is really criminal to delay these benefits. We are praising these people as heroes but it's just lip service if we don't give them anything material," he said.

Of the 18,638 COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, 2,669 are health workers, according to latest data from the DOH, compiled by the ABS-CBN Investigative & Research Group. 

At least 32 health workers in the country have died from COVID-19, and 2 others are severely ill due to the disease, said Sen. Richard Gordon, who also chairs the Philippine Red Cross.

Of those who died, 26 were physicians, 4 were nurses and 2 others were non-medical staff, data show. 

 

"It's neglect to neglect these benefits... A little investigation would show that they died because they were on the front line. It's a no brainer," said Gordon. 

The DOH's inaction is "unacceptable and unforgivable," Sen. Kiko Pangilinan said.

"This is truly disappointing and truly indicative of the lack of compassion.. They have already died. They have already suffered, and we continue to let them suffer more because of this inaction," he said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said the Senate should "go pursue" the issue as the "lack or absence of an IRR should not be used as an excuse not to comply with the law."

Angara has asked the Senate leadership to draft a letter, signed by all senators, to push the DOH to compensate health workers who died or fell severely ill after tending to COVID-19 patients.

The Senate "will take action as soon as possible," Senate President Vicente Sotto III said.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told ABS-CBN News that the DOH, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) are working on the implementation of the cash aid for healthworkers sickened by COVID-19.

"I was told by our Undersecretary Roger Tong-an for admin and finance that there will be a joint administrative order (JAO) on the P1-million support fund for the families of those who passed because of COVID-19," Duque said in a text message.

"The JAO is with DOLE and DBM for their comments and after which its signing is to be scheduled and release of the fund to the beneficiary [would follow]," he said.