MANILA - The Department of Health (DOH) on Monday denied that the agency failed to release monetary benefits for health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic as several medical frontliners plan of a mass resignation over the alleged lack of support from the national government.
The DOH spent P10.85 billion for the special risk allowance (SRA) of 740,958 health workers, and another P4.24 billion for the hazard pay of 864,843 frontliners, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said.
"It is very unfortunate for us to be in a situation wherein there is a call for mass resignation," he said in an online press conference.
Health care workers who failed to receive their special risk allowance and hazard pay may have lacked several requirements to avail of these monetary benefits, Vega said.
"The SRA which is really processed through the regional offices... would mean that they need to enlist in a masterlist in regional offices," he said.
"We've been asking regional offices to coordinate with private hospitals to write us, validate, certify, health care workers who were not given so we can source out a funding for this," he said.
Aside from the risk allowance and hazard pay, the DOH also disbursed P1.3 billion for meals, accommodation and transportation of medical frontliners, and another P549.7 million for sickness and death claims, he said.
"We have been trying to talk to them, the Alliance of Health Workers... We have been doing this for several months," Vega said.
"It is their right to complain and we make sure we work out some mechanisms wherein they will be given those privileges," he said.
Health spokesperson Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire belied reports that the DOH owes hospitals some P90 billion.
"'Yan yung computation nila, but that has to be validated," she said.
(That is their computation, but that has to be validated.)
"It doesn't mean na kapag nag-compute ang isang ospital ng kanilang total, yun na talaga ang maibibigay. Kailangan po namin i-validate yan," she said.
(It doesn't mean that when a hospital computes, their total will be immediately released to them. We have to validate it.)
The DOH released the statement days after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged the agency's supposed failure to disburse P4.8 million in financial assistance to health care workers.
The COA also questioned why the DOH spent P814 million on various allowances without complying with "applicable laws, rules and regulations," as well as the disbursement of P275 million on "cash allowances, gift certificates and grocery items" for medical workers.
"Napapanisan sila ng pagkain. Hindi sila nakakakain ng oras (They experience food spoilage because they cannot eat on time)... So the agency sough the approval of the Office of the President to provide provision in cash," Vega said.
"These lapses were inadvertently committed due to the government's commitment to provide benefits for health workers as a simple way of thanking them for their heroism and cooperation," he said.
The DOH, Vega said, is ready to answer the deficiencies COA flagged, noting that state auditors even gave the agency time to correct some lapses in the spending protocol.
"Compliance is ongoing. Some of these have already been resolved. The deficiencies are all compliance issues," he said.
"COA reiterated in their findings that they did not mention any funds lost to corruption."
"This is really to improve the process and efficiency of all units. It is not yet a final report. We can still rectify noted deficiencies," he added.