Release of health workers’ benefits ‘hopefully’ on Wednesday, says Duque

John Gabriel Agcaoili, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 25 2021 01:51 AM | Updated as of Aug 25 2021 02:34 AM

Philippine General Hospital (PGH) doctors and nurses line up during registration for the COVID-19 vaccination inside the hospital on February 9, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Philippine General Hospital (PGH) doctors and nurses line up during registration for the COVID-19 vaccination inside the hospital on February 9, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA—The health and budget departments could release benefits that are due health workers on Wednesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said, after President Rodrigo Duterte gave the agencies 10 days to hand them out.

"We're hoping the . . . DBM (Department of Budget and Management) will release the SARO (special allotment release order) tomorrow," Duque said in a taped briefing on Tuesday night, adding that the "contingent fund is already being prepared."

The announcement came amid reports that thousands of medical workers are considering resigning en masse, as others already quit their jobs during the pandemic, complaining of low pay and poor working conditions. 

Some healthcare employees also have sought better jobs abroad.

The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAPi) earlier said that an estimated 40 percent of private hospital nurses resigned in 2020, but more followed amid new waves of infections this year. 

Public hospitals are facing similar challenges.

The DOH had said it already 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. 

But a union leader said some health workers at private hospitals have yet to get their special risk allowances or hazard pay, despite repeated meetings with officials. 

Jao Clunia, president of the St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association, refuted Duque's earlier statement to the media that the meals, accommodation, life insurance, and transportation allowance have long been processed. 

"We have not received even a single peso," he said.

The DOH is also facing questions over the management of COVID-19 funds. State auditors reported "deficiencies" of about P67 billion leading to "missed opportunities" in containing the coronavirus pandemic. The health department said the funds were accounted for. 

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