DOH yet to release COVID-19 health workers' benefits amid higher costs of living

·Contributor
·3 min read
Healthcare workers hold a protest outside the Department of Health (DOH), demanding better wages and benefits amid rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Manila, Philippines, September 1, 2021. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)
Healthcare workers hold a protest outside the Department of Health (DOH), demanding better wages and benefits amid rising coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infections, in Manila, Philippines, September 1, 2021. (PHOTO: REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez)

The Department of Health (DOH) is yet to release health workers’ COVID-19 benefits amid skyrocketing fuel prices and higher costs of living, according to health workers on Tuesday (Sep 6).

During a protest in front of the Department of Health (DOH) Central Office in Manila, the health workers led by the Alliance of Health Workers (AWH) slammed the agency over their unreleased COVID-19 benefits as well as their Health Emergency Allowance (HEA).

Health workers in low-risk situations should receive P3,000 per month, while those working in medium- and high-risk situations should receive P6,000 and P9,000 per month, respectively, as per OCA and HEA.

“It is already BER months, and yet the promised One COVID allowance starting January 2022–June 2022 is not yet fully released to health workers in the GOCC [government-owned and -controlled corporations) hospitals, PGH [Philippine General Hospital], private and LGUs,” Philippine Heart Center Employees Association-AHW president Sally Ejes.

“Besides OCA, retroactive payment of HEA covering the period of July-December 2021 is not yet also released. We are also expecting the implementation of HEA starting July 2022 up to the present,” she added.

The health workers, who have been in the forefront of the pandemic and failing healthcare system in the country, also demanded higher salary rate from Salary Grade 1 tp P33,671 and a bigger budget for public hospitals in 2023.

“Two years of pandemic and yet nothing has changed with regards to our appalling condition. The benefits are always delayed and not provided, the salary remains low and far from the living wage we desire, and there is still a lack of quality PPE,” AHW national president Robert Mendoza, said.

“When we ask for the salary increase, quality protective equipment and benefits, this government will always say they lack funds or no budget at all. Sagad at ubos na ang aming mga pasensya,” they added.

Budget cuts

Instead of granting the needs of the country’s health workers amid the pandemic, the government has continued to cut budgets for hospitals and other health care facilities in the country.

Only P190.8 billion was allotted for the operations of 76 hospitals, regional offices, and programs under DOH, according to the group.

The Philippine General Hospital, which caters to nearly half a million patients every year, is once again facing huge budget cuts for 2023.

The health institution, which mostly caters to indigents, will have an P893 million budget cut, according to the P5.268 trillion proposed 2023 national budget by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“Despite the increasing deaths and cases of COVID-19, dengue, measles, and pneumonia this government continues to cut the budget intended for public hospitals. A budget cut is unacceptable,” said Jaymee de Guzman, president of San Lazaro Hospital Employees Association-AHW.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

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