MANILA — Following protests by Philippine General Hospital (PGH) personnel, a group of nurses is planning another action on Friday to call for the timely payment of salaries and benefits of government health workers.
In a virtual forum Tuesday, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) called on its member groups to join their protest on Friday noon at the Philippine Heart Center in Quezon City.
FNU vice president Leni Nolasco said there has been no improvement in their situation in the past months, which is why they need to speak out.
Since the start of the pandemic, various groups have expressed dismay in the treatment of health workers in both public and private facilities. Besides being at risk for COVID-19, nurses and other health workers have reportedly complained of salary delays.
The PGH health workers who protested last week have reportedly not received their hazard pay and special risk allowance (SRA) for the last 6 months.
The Department of Health said the budget should come from the University of the Philippines’ PGH, but PGH officials said they have no savings to source it from.
Karen Faurillo of the All UP Workers Union said PGH was already in dire need of funds before the pandemic, and it was disappointing to see that the national government was passing the responsibility to the hospital.
“Sana may managot kung bakit naaantala ng anim na buwan ang aming COVID hazard pay at SRA,” Faurillo said during the forum.
(Someone needs to be held accountable for the delay of our COVID hazard pay and SRA.)
“These government agencies have all the resources and power to implement the mandated salaries and benefits for health workers, and yet they become culprits in exploiting the frontline health workers at midst of COVID-19 battle,” FNU National President Maristela Abenojar said.
“Nurses are contemplating to file formal case against the perpetrators who refused to comply with the Supreme Court’s order to implement SG15 salaries of nurses, as well as provide timely salaries and benefits like COVID-duty hazard pay and SRA,” she added, referring to the increase in salary for entry-level nurses.
Besides the timely payment of salaries and nurses, the group also asked that contractual health workers be given plantilla positions.
Robert Mendoza, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said it was disappointing to know that there are more than 16,000 health workers who have yet to receive their COVID hazard pay.
He also questioned the government policy to only give COVID hazard pay to those working inside the COVID ward of hospitals. He pointed out that all hospital employees are exposed to the risk of COVID-19 and should therefore receive hazard pay.
Health Alliance for Democracy Secretary General Albert Pascual said the government’s budget process shows how officials are not prioritizing health.
“Pagpapakita ito na ang ating pamahalan ay may malaking pagpapabaya sa frontline health workers,” he said.
(It shows that our government is neglecting frontline health workers.)
In addressing last Nov. 28 the PGH workers' issue, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH knows "the value of our health care workers."
"Kaya po sa tuwina nagkakaroon ng ganito, we investigate it at once at binibigyan natin ng solusyon para d'yan,” she said of the PGH workers' concerns.
(That's why when something like this happens, we investigate it at once and we give solution.)