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DBM releases 1.08 billion pesos for health workers affected by COVID

A medical worker at a hospital in the city of Mandaluyong checks for COVID admissions. (File Photo by NIÑO JESUS ​​ORBETA/Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — Frontliners and other personnel employed in healthcare facilities who had been infected with COVID-19 this year can now expect to receive compensation from the Department of Health (DOH).

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) announced on Sunday that it released 1.08 billion pesos to the DOH last Friday to cover compensation for health workers in the event of illness and death related to COVID-19.

This represents the entire allocation under the General Appropriation Act of 2022 for sickness and death benefits for health care workers who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty.

On May 12, the DBM and DOH released the implementation guidelines for this compensation package covering fiscal year 2022.

According to the rules, healthcare workers and other workers in medical facilities who have experienced a mild or moderate case of COVID-19 will receive 15,000 pesos.

Those who have been dejected by severe or critical COVID-19 infection will receive 100,000 pesos.

“1 million pesos is allocated to the family of healthcare workers and other healthcare workers who have died from COVID-19 in the line of duty,” the DBM said in a statement.

The joint DBM-DOH circular states that this compensation plan would be provided to qualifying beneficiaries “without prejudice to other existing benefits under applicable government insurance schemes and their applicable laws.”

There will be no double deduction from this taxable allowance, “except in the event of reinfection”, specifies the circular.

The DBM said that since the release of funds came from the DOH’s 2022 agency budget, the DOH would transfer compensation funds to DOH-retained hospitals and businesses, its treatment and rehabilitation centers, centers health development and other related agencies and institutions.

“Disqualifications” in the forms

Health worker allowances and benefits have been a sensitive issue during the pandemic due to their late release.

Earlier this month, health workers again complained that they had not received the benefits they were supposed to receive last year due to problems at the DOH.

Jao Clumia, spokesperson for the Private Hospital Workers Alliance of the Philippines (PHWAP), which represents 63,772 healthcare workers, later told the Inquirer that a number of frontline doctors were surprised when their claim requests were denied by the DOH.

When they asked why their claims for benefits due last year were denied, they were told it was because they were using an old form, but the DOH never bothered to give the new ones. forms or even inform the hospitals.

“I don’t know if they really want to shell out [the benefits] because they make it difficult for plaintiffs to get their share,” said Clumia, who is also president of the St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association.

Clumia was referring to benefits provided under Republic Act No. 11494, or Bayanihan Act 2, which was signed into law in September 2020.

Many health workers have received benefits under this act and the validity of allowances under this act was extended under RA 11519, but this extension expired in June 2021.

President Duterte had ordered the release of funds for health worker benefits in August, and the DOH said in October that the funds had already been released and were being distributed.

But when PHWAP complained that most of its members had not received their benefits, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the delay was solely due to ‘failures’ in the forms of request.

Clumia said he raised the matter again with some health officials but did not receive a clear explanation.

“More inclusive”

Last January, the DOH announced that it would replace special hazard allowances given to health care workers with the One COVID-19 Allocation (OCA), which it described as “more inclusive and responsive.”

According to the DOH, the OCA would be distributed on a prorated basis to all health care workers involved in the COVID-19 response based on their COVID-19 exposure classification.

The OCA has an allocation of 50 billion pesos in the 2022 budget, but only 7.9 billion pesos has been approved and the rest of the fund has been classified “for later release”.

“Given the expected high number of eligible health workers, the DOH is constantly coordinating with the Ministry of Finance to ensure that the remaining 42 billion pesos currently housed as unprogrammed funds will be prioritized to ensure the implementation implementation of the OCA until the state of national emergency. has been lifted,” the DOH said.

President Duterte also signed RA 11712, or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Healthcare Workers Act, on April 27, which provides “continuing” benefits to healthcare workers.

Under RA 11712, health workers should receive “emergency pay” for each month of service during a public health emergency.


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