Bong Go

Bong Go hails Senate OK of bill granting COVID-19 benefits to health workers

February 2, 2022 People's Journal 368 views

SENATOR and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher “Bong” Go welcomed the approval on the third and final reading in the Senate of the bill granting additional COVID-19 benefits and allowances to public and private health workers on Monday, January 31.

Authored and co-sponsored by Go, Senate Bill No. 2421 or the proposed COVID-19 Benefits and Allowances for Health Workers Act of 2022 seeks to grant medical frontliners continuous financial support in recognition of their extraordinary contributions and sacrifices during the pandemic.

“Sabi ko nga, hindi mababayaran ng kahit anumang halaga ang buhay at serbisyo ng ating mga health workers. But as they continue their life-saving work, it is incumbent upon the government to show them our gratitude by providing them with allowances and benefits,” said the lawmaker.

“Almost two years na silang nakikipaglaban sa pandemyang ito. Alam kong pagod na pagod at hirap na hirap na sila kaya hindi tayo dapat magkulang sa suporta. Our health workers are the most essential aspect of our pandemic response and our country is forever indebted to their dedication and commitment,” he continued.

Go, however, urged the Executive Department to continue working together, particularly the health officials and government finance managers, to make sure funding sources can be made available for its proper implementation if enacted into law.

“Hangga’t kaya ng gobyerno, ibigay dapat ang mga benepisyong nararapat para sa ating mga HCWs. Kaya mahalagang mapaghandaan at mapag-aralan ito nang mabuti upang maimplementa ng maayos,” said Go.

If enacted, SBN 2421 will provide all private and public health workers a monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance. The amount of the allowance shall be as follows: P3,000 for health workers deployed in low risk areas; P6,000 for those in medium risk areas; and P9,000 for those in high risk areas.

The bill also stipulates the provision of additional compensation for health workers, non-medical workers and outsourced personnel assigned in health facilities who contract COVID-19 while in the line of duty.

It further directs the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to shoulder all medical expenses of a health worker hospitalized due to the virus. To help ensure their health and safety, mandatory COVID-19 tests will also be regularly conducted on health workers at a frequency to be determined by the Department of Health.

All benefits provided under the bill will have retroactive application from July 1, 2021 and will remain in effect for the duration of the declared State of Public Health Emergency due to COVID-19.

“Lahat naman ng health workers na naka-duty ay maituturing na exposed sa banta ng COVID-19. Hindi nakikita ang kalaban na ito kung kaya’t mahirap paghiwalayin pa kung sino ang exposed at sino ang hindi,” explained Go.

“Kaya dapat bigyan natin ng sapat na suporta sila dahil bawat araw ay nasa panganib ang kanilang buhay. Siguraduhin nating mabibigyan ang lahat ng healthcare workers ng Special Risk Allowance at iba pang insentibo o benepisyo na naaayon sa batas na ito at iba pa,” he appealed.

To mobilize additional health workers and enhance the country’s capacity to combat the pandemic, Go had previously called on those serving in non-critical areas to volunteer to be deployed to Metro Manila and other high risk locations.

He helped launch an initiative in 2021 to mobilize volunteer medical frontliners in collaboration with the Office of the Presidential Assistant to the Visayas, DOH regional offices, local government units, hospitals with Malasakit Centers, and Project Balik Buhay member-private hospitals.

In 2019, the senator was similarly instrumental in the passage of Republic Act No. 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law 5. The law, which he also authored and co-sponsored, gave all civilian government employees, including nurses, their fifth round of salary increases broken down in tranches.

In the same year, he pushed and ensured enough funding was allotted for the implementation of a Supreme Court decision upholding Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. The law increased the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position to SG-15. The ruling was implemented the following year, some 19 years after the law was enacted.