Health workers groups criticize budget cut in hospitals, unpaid COVID-19 benefits

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 15 2021 10:07 PM

Health workers from different hospitals stormed the gates of the Department of Health headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Manila on September 1, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News
Health workers from different hospitals stormed the gates of the Department of Health headquarters in Sta. Cruz, Manila on September 1, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) decried what it says as government’s lack of priority for public health, as supposedly seen in the budget cuts that hospitals would suffer next year.

According to the group, the P242 billon proposed budget for the health sector is misleading since 33 percent of it is allotted for PhilHealth. 

Only P157 billion will be allocated to the Department of Health under the Office of the Secretary. The budget for 76 public hospitals are listed under the DOH-OSEC's allocation.

Compared with the Department of Public Works and Highway's (DPWH) P686.1 billion proposed budget, the DOH's budget is six times smaller, the group noted.

It also pointed out that instead of being raised, the budget for Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) in hospitals would be slashed. 

Below is a list of affected hospitals and the corresponding MOOE budget cuts:

  • Batanes General Hospital, P10.47 million
  • Region 2 Trauma and Medical Center, P7.3 million
  • Bicol Regional Hospital, P90 million
  • Mindanao Central Sanitarium in the Zamboanga Peninsula, P28.2 million
  • Philippine Children's Medical Center, P891 million
  • Lung Center of the Philippines, P100 million
  • Philippine Heart Center, P28 million
  • National Kidney and Transplant Institute, P8 million
  • Philippine General Hospital, P130 million

The AHW also opposed the reported budget cuts in national referral laboratories such as the DOH Central Office's National Reference Laboratory (P10 million), East Avenue Medical Center National Reference Laboratory (P8 million), and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (P170 million). 

The Dr. Jose Fabella Hospital would also suffer a Personal Services (PS) budget cut of P303 million, the group said.

“Ang PS o personal services budget ay inilaan para sa pampasahod ng ating health workers. Ano ba talaga ang plano ng gobyerno? Magtanggal ng mga health workers sa gitna ng pandemya?” said Robert Mendoza, AHW president.

(The PS budget is allocated precisely for the renumeration of health workers. What's the plan of government? Do they want to remove health workers in the middle of the pandemic?) 

UNPAID BENEFITS

On top of those concerns, the group said most COVID-19 benefits remain unpaid, even after an ultimatum set by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The DOH previously said that it is working on paying the Special Risk Allowance (SRA) of 526,000 frontline health workers. So far, around 100,000 have yet to be paid. 

But aside from the SRA, healthcare workers have yet to receive their meal, accommodation and transportation (MAT) allowance, while those in public hospitals are also still waiting for the payment of their active hazard duty pay (AHDP).

“Kasinungalingan ang lahat ng mga sinasabi nila kasi napakadami pa pong hindi nakatanggap ng mga benepisyo, especially po special risk allowance, active hazard duty pay at ang meal, accommodation and transportation allowance," said Cristy Donguines, president of the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Association.

"Ang mga manggagawang pangkalusugan natin na sa LGUs po hanggang ngayon ay wala silang natanggap,” Donguines said.

The lack of budget allocation for these benefits in 2022 is another problem.

The DOH earlier this month said there is no allocation for the special risk allowance of health care workers in the proposed 2022 budget.

The budget for the SRA was lodged in the proposed Bayanihan 3 bill, which has been approved by the House but remains pending in the Senate.

DOH data show there are a total of 1.8 million healthcare workers in the country.

The AHW said they would pursue cases against Health Secretary Francisco Duque for his alleged criminal negligence. 

Health workers have launched protests amid the surge in new coronavirus infections to demand the release of their long delayed benefits and hazard pay as they battle COVID-19 in the frontlines.

-- Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News

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