MANILA – Some benefits under the ‘Bayanihan 2’ law for health workers were slashed by 70 percent to fund the country’s vaccination drive, a group of healthcare workers said Monday.
Alliance of Health Workers National President Robert Mendoza said the meal, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) allowance for health workers was taken back from them merely three days after the funds were given to some hospitals.
“Like for example, the meal, accommodation and transportation allowance ano, noong 3 days after nilang ibinigay ang ibang pondo sa ibang hospital ay binawi po ito nila. Binawi nila na hindi pa napagdesisyunan ng director sa employees consultation para magamit yung pondo. Ang ginawa, binalik sa Department of Health. And then nung nagkaroon na kami ng dialogue, panay na ang protesta namin, ni-request namin na ibalik yung kinuhang pondo para sa meal, accommodation, transportation," Mendoza said on ANC.
(Like for example, the meal, accommodation and transportation allowance was taken back three days after it was released to some hospitals. They took it back before directors have yet to decide during consultation with employees on using the funds. So, it was returned to the Department of Health. And then, when we had a dialogue and were protesting, we requested for a return of those funds.)
"Ngayon, ibinalik siya ng 30% lang,” he added.
(Now, it's been returned, but only 30 percent.)
“So ang focus lang nila is yung meal allowance. Saan yung 70% na accommodation and transportation? Ang explanation po nila, kaya hindi na daw po nila maibalik yung another 70% ay nagamit na nila sa pambili ng vaccine, pambayad sa mga health workers at other related na mga sa COVID-19 para sa pandemic,” Mendoza said.
(Their focus was the meal allowance. Where did the 70 percent, which was for accommodation and transportation, go? They explained that they could no longer return the 70 percent because it's been used to buy vaccines, pay health workers, and pay for other COVID-19-related expenses.)
“Sabi natin, may allotted budget diyan, bakit niyo ginagamit yung para sa health workers at bakit hindi iyo ibalik nang buo para ma-enjoy naman ng mga health workers na hindi pa nakaka-enjoy doon sa meal, accommodation and transportation?”
(We said that since there is an allotted budget for those expenses, why did you use the funds intended for health workers? Why won't you return it in full so that our health workers can also enjoy those meal, accommodation and transportation allowance benefit?)
Mendoza said nurses in private hospitals were not even informed that they were entitled to the MAT allowance until recently.
“Lately lang, nung July 16 lang yung huli naming dialogue na lang nagkaalaman na hindi pala nakipag-communicate yung CHD NCR, Center for Health & Development sa NCR, doon sa mga private hospital regarding sa meal accommodation and transportation."
"Kaya doon sila nagulat na meron palang budget dito sa mga private hospitals din.”
(It was only lately, or on July 16, when we had our last dialogue, that everyone became aware that the Center for Health and Development in the National Capital Region did not communicate with private hospitals regarding the meal, accommodation and transportation allowance. The private hospitals were surprised to learn they are also part of the budget.)
The Bayanihan 2 expired with billions in funds still unused on June 30.
Mendoza said he feels frustrated by the fact that they need to beg for the benefits already provided to them by the law.
“Nakaka-frustrate lang po ano yung, para bang, meron nang batas, pinondohan na ito, kailangan ba namin manikluhod pa para sa Department of Health para lang makuha yang mga benepisyong yan?” he said.
(It's frustrating because despite the law and the allocation, do we still need to beg for it from the Department of Health so we can get those benefits?)
Mendoza said he was shocked by the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the DOH’s alleged mismanagement of COVID-19 funds.
“Sinayang yung pagkakataon na nabigyan sana ang health workers na andaming nagkakasakit na, andami nang namatay,” he said.
(The opportunity to give health workers benefits was wasted. Many health workers have been sick, others have died.)
“Kaming mga health workers, hindi namin na-feel na totoo ba ang pagkalinga o pag-alaga ng Department of Health sa aming health workers? Lalong-lalo na po na ngayon na andyan na yung Delta variant, andyan pa yung Lambda, ano?"
(We, health workers, cannot feel the care of the Department of Health, especially now that the Delta and Lambda variants of COVID-19 have been detected here.)
“Sana tuloy-tuloy pa rin yung pagbibigay ng mga benepisyo kasi hindi naman tumigil si COVID e. Nandyadyan pa rin po siya,” he lamented.
(I hope granting of benefits will continue because COVID-19 is still here.)
Mendoza said his group is not encouraging mass resignation among the ranks of healthcare workers. Still, he said he cannot blame his colleagues who feel tired and burned out already.
“Kami naman sa aming samahan ay hindi naman kami naghihikayat na mag mass-resignation tayo. Kasi may obligasyon tayo, may sinumpaan tayong tungkulin. Kasi kawawa rin po ang ating mamamayan ‘pag napabayaan po ng health workers. ‘Pag walang health workers, babagsak ang ating healthcare system,” he said.
(Our group is not encouraging mass resignation, because we have an obligation, we have sworn duties to fulfill. Although, the public will also suffer if health workers are not taken care of. Without health workers, our healthcare system will break down.)
“Pero hindi rin natin sila masisisi, yung mga health workers na ito na magkakaroon ng mass resignation or early retirement or mag-resign talaga dahil karapatan din nila yan. Dahil alam natin na pagod na pagod na ang mga health workers dahil sa sobrang understaffing ano, at 12 hours ang duty, minsan nagsi-16 hours,” he added.
(But we cannot also blame health workers who take part in mass resignations, or avail of early retirement, or just simply resign, because that is their right. We know our fellow health workers are already tired due to understaffing in facilities; they sometimes go on duty for 12 hours or 16 hours.)