MANILA – The president of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines says some healthcare workers have lost hope and have already left the country without receiving their much awaited health emergency allowance (HEA), a mandated benefit during the COVID-19 emergency.
Dr. Jose Rene De Grano on Tuesday told media that workers of some private hospitals continue to wait for the release of their HEA that date as far back as January 2022.
“These are more of OCA and HEA. Then meron na rin sa January 2023 ng HEA pero yun nga hanggang ngayon nakapending pa rin. Hindi lang nurses ang binibigyan ng HEA ha, all the healthcare workers, nurse, even office workers depending on their exposure. May P9,000, 6,000, 3,000 yan. And they’re expecting a lot from that na tulong man lang ng gobyerno,” he said at the sidelines of the Dengue Forum in Manila.
De Grano said there seems to be a discrepancy between the statement of the Department of Health’s Central Office and regional offices.
“Unfortunately laging sinasabi nila, ng main Department of Health, na release na raw ang fund. Pag dating sa regional offices, sasabihin nila we’re waiting for the funds na kesyo galing pa raw sa DBM etc.," he said.
“Sometimes 'yun ang tinatanong namin: nasan na ang pera, diba? Kung na-release ng main pupunta dapat sa CHD sa regional. O asan ngayon ang pera kasi sabi ng regional wala sa kanila," De Grano added.
In August, the DOH said that over P46 billion in health emergency allowance has already been disbursed by the agency. Around P15 billion more is targeted to be disbursed to the regions and their facilities within the year.
The agency has repeatedly reminded facilities to ensure documentary requirements are complete to facilitate the speedy release of funds. But according to De Grano, regional offices are also pointing to another reason for the delay.
“Eh ngayon ang sinasabi nila is we’re waiting for the funding. So ibig sabihin walang funds. It’s not the documentary requirements. Dapat saibhin nila ang katotohanan. Dapat sabihin nila 'Okay, no more funds.' Sabihin ng region, 'We’re waiting for the funds,'" he said.
Complaint vs 11 centers for health development
PHAPi said it supports the move of the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP) of filing a complaint against certain regional offices of the DOH “for their failure to respond to our inquiries regarding the HEA status of various private hospitals”.
In a letter to the Anti-Red Tape Authority, the group enumerated some 11 regions which they say have violated RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act.
Based on data from 155 hospitals across 16 regions, the DOH’s arrears, ranging between 11 to 23 months, sum over P5.8 billion.
The release of HEA is, however, expected to be further delayed. This is after the Metro Manila Center for Health Development, in an advisory dated September 11, said that release and disbursement of expenditures of public funds is prohibited from September 14 to October 30 due to the upcoming Barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
"We are disappointed in the DOH's suspension of HEA payments due to the BSKE. Meanwhile, both the DSWD and DOLE have successfully applied for exemptions for their respective programs. The DOH's decision appears disconnected and is a clear betrayal of their promise, despite the directive from Malacañang to settle our benefits,” said Jesus Obien, President of the Chinese General Hospital Employees Association and lead convenor of UPHUP.
As of writing the DOH, has yet to comment on the filed complaint.
Support for Herbosa remains
Despite the overly delayed disbursement of health benefits, PHAPi said it continues to support Health Secretary Ted Herbosa even as the latter's appointment was bypassed due to “lack of material time”.
“Private hospitals, we recommended Dr. Herobsa before and we will continue to support the Secretary in his 8-point agenda. Makakaasa si Secretary Herbosa ng patuloy na suporta from private hospitals,” De Grano said.
Herbosa was appointed to lead the DOH helm in June. Lawmakers say his confirmation will be taken up again when the session resumes in November.