PH gov’t approves rules for COVID-infected health workers’ benefits

Kristine Sabillo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 04 2020 11:46 AM | Updated as of Jun 04 2020 07:14 PM

Funds for beneficiaries ready for distribution

MANILA (UPDATE) — The guidelines for the release of monetary benefits for health workers in the Philippines infected with the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been approved, a health official said Thursday.

“Ang tulong na ito ay nakapaloob sa Joint Administrative Order na pinirmahan na po ng Kalihim ng Kalusugan, ng DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), at ng DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said during a televised briefing.

(The assistance is detailed in a Joint Administrative Order signed by the Secretaries of Health, DOLE and DBM.)

“Hindi na bumuo ng Implementing Rules and Regulation ang kagawaran upang maisatupad ito. Nag-issue na lang tayo ng Joint Administrative Order… kung saan kailangan lang ng 3 pirma mula sa aming mga Kalihim,” she added.

(The DOH decided not to issue an Implementing Rules and Regulation to implement this. We decided to issue a Joint Administrative Order… which only needs the signatures of the three Secretaries.)

Vergeire said that while they cannot give a price on the life of those who died while serving the country during the pandemic, the assistance would at least aid their families.

Vergeire said this after senators lambasted the concerned agencies for the delayed implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

One senator called the delay in the disbursement of the benefits for health workers a “serious neglect.”

Section 4F of Republic Act no. 11469, or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, states that public and private health workers who contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty will receive a compensation of P100,000.

Those who die “while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic” will be compensated with P1 million.

Thirty-two health workers — 4 nurses, 26 were doctors and 2 non-medical staff — have succumbed to the disease, based on the latest tally of government.

Vergeire said 60 health workers were also severely ill with COVID-19, while another 19 were considered critical cases.

Earlier in the day, Vergeire said the release of the guidelines took some time because authorities were determining where to source the funds.

“Ating in-explore 'yung iba ibang posibilidad para magawa natin itong provision na ito sa batas, kaya tayo ay natagalan,” she said.

(We explored the different possibilities to ensure the implementation of this provision, that is why it took a while.)

These included the possibility of tapping the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System. But she said doing so would result in a more difficult process.

It was decided eventually to source the funds from realigned budgets, including P100 million from the DOH’s medical assistance funds.

Vergeire said they reallocated funds also from technical assistance budgets of some programs, and delayed other projects to prioritize the COVID-19 response.

“As soon as they can submit the necessary documents na ire-require natin, easily naman, ma-i-issue natin sa kanila ang mga cheke,” she said.

(As soon as they submit the necessary documents that we require, we can easily issue the checks to them.)

A DOH staff informed media that all 32 families of those who died have been contacted for the requirements.

“We are processing the checks and working out the necessary documents they need to submit to avail the benefits,” the DOH said.