Bong Go

Bong Go: ‘Give what is due to them’

April 28, 2023 People's Journal 218 views

On unpaid allowances to HCWs

CHAIR of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Senator Christopher “Bong” Go once again appealed to concerned agencies to give the country’s healthcare workers their due following a recent report that about 20,000 private HCWs have yet to receive their COVID-19 allowances.

“Nananawagan po ako sa ating Department of Budget and Management at sa ating Department of Health. As Chair po ng Committee on Health sa Senado, legislator po ako, mambabatas. Kami po ang nag-aaprub ng budget pero ang nagpapatupad nito ay ang ating Executive Department,” Go pointed out in an ambush interview after personally aiding indigents in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique on April 25.

“Alam n’yo, napakaliit lang po ‘yan na halaga katumbas ng sakripisyo ng ating mga frontliners. Bigyan po natin ng importansya ang ating mga frontliners po. Sila po ang nagsakripisyo sa panahon ng pandemya. Hindi po natin mararating ito kung hindi po sa ating mga frontliners. Dapat po ay bayaran kaagad. What is due to them, bayaran kaagad,” he urged.

United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP) earlier revealed that 20,304 healthcare workers who rendered duty in private hospitals during the pandemic have not yet received their mandated COVID-19 benefits and allowances amounting to PhP1.94 billion from October 2021 onwards.

It added that the government has incurred PhP1,840,742,500 in arrears for the one COVID-19 allowance (OCA); special risk allowance (SRA); health emergency allowance (HEA); and meals, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) benefits for the HCWs.

Go recalled, “Alam n’yo, nu’ng umpisa pa lang ng pandemya, nagsalita talaga ako sa Senado dahil mayroon pong namatay (na HCW), it took them two months po bago ihatid ang kanilang tseke. Alam mo, kapag may namamatay na health worker, ‘wag n’yo nang pahirapan sa mga requirements, dapat nga ihatid ang tseke sa pamamahay dahil nagluluksa pa ang mga ‘yan.”

“Same arrangement din po o treatment dito sa mga nagkasakit na mga healthcare workers natin. Ibigay agad ang ipinangakong financial assistance. Ito namang incentives nila, risk allowance, ibigay po. In fact, mayroon kaming inaprubahan sa Senado, ‘yung Republic Act 11712 na naglalaan po na bigyan sila ng risk allowance. Ngayon, ‘wag na pong patagalan,” he added.

In line with the government efforts to promote the interest and welfare of healthcare workers, RA 11712, which Go authored and co-sponsored, grants mandatory continuing benefits and allowances to public and private healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies.

Public and private HCWs covered by the law are entitled to health emergency allowance for every month of service during a state of public health emergency based on the risk categorization.

For HCWs assigned in low risk areas, they will receive PhP3,000 while PhP6,000 shall be given to those under medium risk areas. Furthermore, those who will be working in high risk areas will be granted PhP9,000.

In addition, the healthcare workers will be receiving separate compensation if they contract COVID-19 while on duty. For those with mild to moderate symptoms, they will receive PhP15,000 while individuals with severe symptoms or under a critical state will receive PhP100,000.

Meanwhile, for those who unfortunately succumb to the virus, the government will be giving PhP1,000,000 to the families they left behind.

Apart from the HCWs, non-health care workers (NHCWs) are also covered by the law, such as public and private medical, allied medical, administrative, technical, support and other necessary personnel employed by, and assigned in hospitals, health facilities, laboratories, medical or temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, or vaccination sites.

Likewise, Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) and outsourced personnel hired under institutional or individual contract of service or job order who are similarly exposed to COVID-19, or other threats in times of public health emergencies, are included as non-health care workers under this Act.

“Nakikiusap po ako na kung tutuusin nga, sabi ko, maliit lang po itong halagang ito sa sakripisyo na inukol nila para sa ating mga kababayan.

Kaya I’m appealing po sa ating DBM, sa DOH, sa Executive Department na bilisan na po,” Go reiterated.

“At mayroon pong allocated na PhP19.962 billion allocated sa public health emergency benefits and allowances for healthcare and non-healthcare workers under the 2023 national budget. Mayroon naman pong PhP52.962 billion na unprogrammed. Ibig sabihin, hahanapan pa po nila ito ng pondo, kaya sana po ay kung mayroong excess revenue collection, ibigay na agad ang dapat sa ating mga healthcare workers.

Ang sakripisyo nila, kawawa naman po ang mga healthcare workers natin. Ang iba diyan, buhay po ang itinaya at isinakripisyo,” he added.

From the start, Go has been advocating for a stronger healthcare system in the country. He has also been consistent in pushing initiatives to benefit all Filipino healthcare workers. He had earlier appealed for the provision of allowances for HCWs at the height of the pandemic.

In 2019, the lawmaker was instrumental in the enactment of Republic Act No. 11466 or the “Salary Standardization Law 5”. The measure gives all civilian government employees, including nurses, increased salaries broken down in tranches.

In the same year, he also ensured that enough funding was allotted for the implementation of the 2019 Supreme Court decision that upheld Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which sets the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position at SG-15.