THE Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) has responded to the observation of the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding its P2.1 million worth of hazard pay to VSMMC personnel who did not physically report to work or were not qualified due to accumulated leave of absence which the COA found to be an “irregular expenditure.”
“The management has addressed these observations already stating our justifications for the said observation. As of this statement, VSMMC is still awaiting a final disposition by the COA regarding this,” VSMMC said in a statement issued on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.
The response was signed by VSMMC medical chief Gerardo Aquino, Jr.
The COA observation on VSMMC, a Department of Health (DOH)-run hospital, was just one of several “irregular, unnecessary, and excessive” expenditures by DOH’s various regional offices which amounted to more than P557 million.
The VSMMC explained that during the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic on March 20, 2020, the same time Cebu was placed under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the hospital’s management adopted alternative working arrangements in accordance with the guidelines of the Civil Service Commission.
The VSMMC said all employees were directed to report on-site observing infection prevention and control measures even with the disruptions in public transport, “seeming discrimination” against hospital workers, and inconveniences brought by restrictions of the pandemic-induced quarantines.
Moreover, VSMMC said, a work from home arrangement was granted to elderly healthcare workers aligned with their Hospital Order No. 2020-388 on Covid-19 Alternative Work Arrangements dated March 17, 2020.
The VSMMC said all division and section heads were provided with the methods to ensure that all employees can avail of the arrangement with a clear-cut set of deliverables.
The hospital said as the VSMMC catered to both Covid and non-Covid cases, the hospital’s management had to adopt special scheduling among its health care workers rotating at their Covid facility.
“Instead of the usual 40-hour, five-day workweek, these healthcare workers worked for two weeks straight rotation without leaving the hospital which culminates in a mandatory quarantine for a prescribed number of days before RT-PCR testing to ensure their safety in going back to their respective homes and to their tour of duty,” the VSMMC statement said.
“After this tour of duty wave, they go on two weeks rest. Some of the employees, unfortunately, turned up positive for Sars-CoV-2, the Covid-19 virus, and would be on further quarantine,” it added.
The VSMMC also said in the epidemiological investigation of the DOH and the hospital’s Infection Control Committee, more non-patient-facing employees got the virus than patient-facing-staff and the source of infection was traced to community transmission more than hospital-acquired, this was when the pandemic wore on.
Due to these premises, the VSMMC said its management thought it would be in the “best interest” of its employees to be granted such benefit as the hospital had an obligation “to look out for its employees who have been working hard in tough circumstance.” (WBS with PR)