Duterte tells DOH: Prioritize pay for health workers 'if there is enough money'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 17 2021 10:10 AM

Health workers and medical frontliners attend to residents at a vaccination site at the Sta. Ana Elementary School in Manila on Aug. 13, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News
Health workers and medical frontliners attend to residents at a vaccination site at the Sta. Ana Elementary School in Manila on Aug. 13, 2021. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday told the health department to prioritize releasing funds for health workers "if there is enough money", after some mulled mass resignation over the benefits they have not yet received more than a year into the COVID-19 crisis. 

"Mamamatay na, kita mo 'yung mga frontliners tapos wala kang ibigay na suporta," Duterte told health officials in a taped meeting that aired in the wee hours of Tuesday. 

"Itong frontliners unahin mo na lang. If there is enough money, bayaran mo 'yung—tsaka 'yung mga medisina ulit utangin mo. Huwag mong sundin 'yang COA. P***** i** 'yang COA-COA na 'yan. Wala namang mangyari diyan," he added. 

(They are dying, you see the health workers and yet, you don't give aid. Prioritize these frontliners. If there is enough money, pay them—and the medicine, take another loan for it. Don't follow that Commission on Audit. That son of a b**** COA. Nothing will happen there.) 

The COA recently flagged "deficiencies" in the health department's management of around P67 billion, which it said led to "missed opportunities" in containing the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Department of Health said the funds were accounted for. It said it has also released 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. 

"It is very unfortunate for us to be in a situation wherein there is a call for mass resignation," Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega said in an online press conference.

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But a labor leader and nurses' group said some health workers in private hospitals have yet to get their special risk allowances or hazard pay, despite repeated meetings with officials. 
 
"Taliwas ito sa mga sinasabi ni Sec. Duque na ang pahayag niya sa media, matagal na raw downloaded yun yung meals, accommodation, life insurance, saka transportation," said Jao Clunia, president of St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association. 

"Wala nga po kami niyan kahit pisong duling," he told ANC's Headstart. 

(This is different from Sec. Duque's statement to the media that the meals, accommodation, life insurance, and transportation allowance have long been downloaded. We have not received even a single peso.) 

The Philippine Nurses Association said on Sunday it does not encourage health workers' plan to hold mass resignations but could not blame them should they do so as COVID-19 cases rise across the country. 

"Di natin sila masisisi kung gagawin nila 'yan sapagkat ang pagpapahalaga at malasakit na binibigay ng gobyerno ay hindi talaga nila nararamdaman."

(We can't blame them because they can't feel appreciation and care from government.)

Some health workers in private hospitals have yet to receive their special risk allowances or hazard pay, according to Reyes.

Around 40 percent of private hospital nurses have quit their jobs, he added, citing data from the Private Hospitals Association Philippines.

"Sana po, matingnan natin ang sistema ng implementation. Wala naman po siguro magrereklamo kung natatanggap nang maayos," he told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo. 

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