SENATOR Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to concerned agencies to make sure that healthcare workers (HCWs) receive all services and benefits due them amid the recent approval of additional budget to cover the payment of the fourth batch of their COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance.
Go, who chairs the Senate Health Committee, stressed that health personnel are on the front lines in the fight against COVID-19. Thus, he reiterated the need for the government to waste no time in providing what is owed to doctors, nurses, and qualified medical workers.
“Hinihikayat ko po ang ating gobyerno na siguraduhing lahat ng benepisyo at mga serbisyo na inilaan ng batas para sa ating healthcare workers ay maibigay sa kanila,” said Go.
“Sila po ang mga bayani natin ngayong pandemya dahil sa kanilang patuloy na pagseserbisyo at pagsasakripisyo para maisalba ang buhay ng ating kapwa Pilipino,” he added.
Earlier, President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the release of PhP1.185 billion in funds charged against the 2021 Contingent Fund to cover the SRA of eligible private HCWs and non-Department of Health plantilla personnel who are yet to receive their SRA from December 20, 2020 to June 30, 2021.
In response to complaints from public and private HCWs who have yet to receive their SRA, the President has also directed the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management to expedite the utilization of funds for the benefit of the country’s HCWs.
Go also successfully pushed for the allocation of a total of PhP51 billion in the 2022 budget for the compensation of COVID-19 HCWs in 2022. He went on to stress that the government should do everything possible to help HCWs, considering their critical role in fighting the pandemic and preserving lives.
To guarantee that their contributions and risks are adequately recognized, Go also expressed his support for extending the SRA to all HCWs working in hospitals. Given the significant number of COVID-19 cases accepted in the country’s healthcare institutions, he pointed out that practically all HCWs fit the qualifications to receive the benefits under the law.
“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,” continued Go.
“Kaya ako umaapela na maging flexible tayo sa pag-iimplementa ng nakasaad sa batas at kung kakayanin ng pondo ay bigyan na ang lahat ng qualified ng fixed na amount ng SRA kaysa bilangin pa natin ang kanilang pag-duty bawat araw,” he added.
The budget for the compensation and other benefits for COVID-19 workers in health facilities in the 2022 budget will be used for payment of COVID-19 benefits for all public and private health care workers and non-health care workers, regardless of employment status, who are involved in COVID-19 response in all health facilities. The amount of COVID-19 benefits shall vary according to risk exposure of the health care worker and non-health care worker in particular settings: P3,000 for low risk, P6,000 for medium risk, and P9,000 for high risk.
Earlier, Go authored and co-sponsored Senate Bill No. 2421 which will provide health workers with a fixed monthly COVID-19 Risk Allowance for the duration of the current State of Emergency in lieu of the special risk allowance and other financial compensation granted under the Bayanihan 2. Under the measure, those eligible for the benefits will include all healthcare workers and other necessary personnel assigned in health facilities.
“As much as possible, kung kakayanin naman ng pondo, ibigay na natin lahat ng suportang pwede nating ibigay. Hindi masusuklian ang hirap at sakripisyo nila upang makapagligtas ng buhay,” Go stressed.
Throughout the pandemic, Go has been aggressive in promoting the interests and protecting the welfare of medical frontline workers. The Senator had successfully pushed for free COVID-19 testing, personal protective equipment, hazard pay, and special risk allowances for health workers at the start of the outbreak.
In 2019, Go was instrumental as author and co-sponsor of Republic Act No. 11466 or the Salary Standardization Law 5. The law gives civilian government employees, including nurses, their fifth round of salary increases broken down in tranches.
In the same year, he also 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 some 18 years after the law was enacted. The law increases the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position to SG-15. The ruling was implemented the following year.
“Ni piso at ni isang minuto ay hindi dapat masayang dahil buhay ang kapalit nito. Magmalasakit tayo sa ating kapwa. Walang tigil dapat ang serbisyo lalo na sa panahon ngayon na nangangailangan ang mga Pilipino,” he said.