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The benefits of 126,000 health workers remain blocked

MANILA, Philippines — More than 126,000 private sector frontline medical workers have yet to receive their health and death benefits as provided for in the two Bayanihan laws President Duterte signed during the two-year pandemic.

“So what’s holding him back?” Representative LRay Villafuerte asked, adding: “What made this heist more appalling was that the Ministry of Budget and Management already announced in February that it had released 7.9 billion pesos for the One COVID allowance (OCA).”

The figure is accurate since no less than Department of Health (DOH) Under Secretary Leopoldo Vega was quoted as saying in a recent radio interview that only 400,000 of 526,727 health care workers (HCWs) received their OCA.

Villafuerte released the statement yesterday following reports quoting the President of the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines, Jose Rene de Grano, that many private health workers have yet to receive the benefits they are due. under the OCA.

“It seems we are still dealing with the same issue of delayed release of funds,” he said, lamenting that Republic Acts 11469 and 11494 (Bayanihan 1 and 2), which Congress passed to strengthening the country’s COVID-19 response and ensuring support, has failed in this aspect.

Earlier reports claimed that the DOH announced in May that it had released more than 86.5 million pesos to 54 health facilities, while an additional 403.4 million pesos for 266 health facilities were “readily available”. , pending submission of required documents.

Under the law, frontline health workers and non-health workers identified as being in high-risk areas are each entitled to 9,000 pesos per month in additional benefits; and those in moderate and low risk locations will each receive a monthly allowance of P6,000 and P3,000, respectively.

These benefits are “retroactive to July 2021”, according to Villafuerte.

The Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Healthcare Workers (RA 11712) provides that healthcare worker benefits will have retroactive application from July 2021 and will remain in effect during the national state of emergency of public health declared by the president.

Increase nursing quotas

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and Albay (2nd District) Rep. Joey Salceda lobbied to lift the quota of nurses who will be deployed overseas as a way to ‘earn foreign currency “.

According to Salceda, the government should ease the restriction on the deployment of healthcare workers, especially nurses, as a “compensatory measure” for the devaluation of the peso.

Salceda said in a statement that if “foreign currency is more valuable now, then let’s work to earn more foreign currency.”

“Let us also work to allow our overseas Filipina nurses to return to work overseas if they wish. There are still restrictions on work visas,” he noted.

He stressed that the deployment ban and restrictions, such as quotas for nurses to be deployed overseas, should be eased.

“Still too low at just 6,500. The right to migrate is a human right, after all,” he added.

In April 2020, the government had suspended the deployment of health workers abroad to avoid burnout in hospitals at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Seven months later the restriction was eased but the government imposed a quota of only 5,000 and eventually 6,500 healthcare workers to be deployed each year. –Sheila Crisostomo

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