Bong Go urges DOH, DBM: Settle unpaid health workers HEA

April 3, 2024 People's Journal 162 views

DURING a public hearing on Tuesday, Senator Christopher “Bong” Go appealed to the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to expedite the release of the long-overdue Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) owed to healthcare workers for their critical service during the pandemic.

Last Congress, Go was one of the authors and co-sponsors in the Senate of the Republic Act No. 11712, which grants benefits and allowances to healthcare workers during public health emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the lifting of the State of Public Health Emergency in the country, he continues to appeal to the executive to release the pending health emergency allowances due to qualified healthcare workers.

During the hearing, Go commenced with an acknowledgment of the healthcare workers’ sacrifices during the pandemic. He expressed his commitment to ensuring their welfare is prioritized, particularly in urging concerned agencies for the release of the HEA.

During the discussion, it was revealed that more than P19 billion has been allocated for HEA, with an additional PhP2.3 billion earmarked as unprogrammed funds.

Go queried the proportion of the unprogrammed funds, emphasizing, “So, out of P731 billion (unprogrammed funds), P2.3 billion lang po ang inilaan sa unprogrammed funds ng Health Emergency Allowance. Bakit po ganun kaliit?”

DBM Undersecretary Janet Abuel responded, explaining that the P2.3 billion allocated for the HEA is in addition to the P19.962 billion provided under the DOH budget for the same purpose.

Abuel clarified that the allocation was based on the DBM’s and the health committee’s strong desire to fulfill the amounts due to both public and private health workers as far as the health emergency allowance is concerned.

Furthermore, the DBM official mentioned that the DBM had advised the DOH that they could utilize another line item, the Administration and Personal Benefits Fund (APB), which amounts to PhP12.775 billion under the 2024 General Appropriations Act (GAA), to supplement the funding for HEA.

This strategy was presented as a way to further support the health workers on top of the already allocated funds.

The hearing also provided a platform for healthcare workers to voice their frustrations and concerns directly. Ronald Ignacio from the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP) provided an account of the desperate situation faced by healthcare workers,

“Wala na po kaming pagbabalingan. (Hindi na po) namin alam kung saan kami mababaling dahil nagpunta na po kami sa ilang legislators, nag-ingay na po kami sa social media for the longest time, for the past three years, para lamang po mabigyan ng kasagutan ‘yung mga katanungan namin regarding our Health Emergency Allowance.”

Donell John Siazon from the University of Sto. Tomas Hospital Union highlighted the significant sacrifices made by healthcare workers during the pandemic and the perceived neglect they now face,

“We have proven our worth during the time of pandemic. Nung nakiusap po ang gobyerno na labanan ang COVID-19, we were there. Namatay po ‘yung mga kasamahan po namin in the front line.”