Makabayan bloc seeks probe of unpaid benefits for health workers

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 18 2021 05:35 PM | Updated as of Aug 18 2021 06:18 PM

MANILA — The Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives on Wednesday filed a resolution seeking a legislative investigation into alleged unpaid benefits for health workers.

The bloc, composed of Bayan Muna Party-list Representatives Carlos Zarate, Ferdinand Gaite, and Eufemia Cullamat; ACT Teachers Party-list Rep. France Castro; Gabriela Party-list Rep. Arlene Brosas; and Kabataan Party-list Rep. Sarah Elago filed House Resolution 2138 addressed to the Committees on Health and Good Government and Public Accountability.

They cited the statements of health workers' union leaders from several private hospitals that threatened a medical lockdown and possible mass resignation due to benefits promised them by the government that have yet to materialize.

"The health workers complained that they have not received the benefits which their counterparts in the public institutions have received. These benefits include life insurance, meal, accommodation, and transportation (MAT), active hazard duty pay (AHDP), and special risk allowance (SRA)," the bloc said in their resolution.

The bloc pointed out that health workers are also decrying the lack of clear guidelines in the release of said benefits. 

"In many hospitals, despite employees being exposed to the same hazardous working conditions, only those directly assigned in COVID wards received the SRA. While in other hospitals, the amount of SRA is computed as to a number of minutes/hours a health worker has been exposed to the COVID patient instead of the number of days based on Administrative Order 42," they said.

On Tuesday, Department of Health (DOH) Assistant Secretary Maylene Beltran reported that P556.6 million worth of sickness and death benefits have been paid under emergency laws Bayanihan 1 and 2. 

Beltran also showed lawmakers a breakdown of hospitals, health care providers, and local government units who have received payments for SRA for their workers.

However, she admitted that in some areas, no SRAs have been paid yet.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque has given assurances that he would address the plight of the workers who have not gotten their benefits. 

"I’ll see to it what can be done to expand these benefits. Very unfortunate there are still private health care workers that have not received the benefits under the Bayanihan 2," he said Wednesday in a separate House hearing. 

Health workers have been complaining of unpaid health benefits just as the Commission on Audit flagged alleged irregularities in the health department's spending of some P67 billion in COVID-19 response funds. 

Duque has decried the release of the report, saying it has besmirched the reputation of his department. He asserted that the amount is account for.