Duterte orders probe on delay in compensation release
President Rodrigo Duterte reportedly wanted to look into what exactly took place, who were responsible for the delay and why it took them two months to process the release of financial assistance.
Joven Cagande, file

Duterte orders probe on delay in compensation release

Mayen Jaymalin, Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) - June 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — President Duterte has ordered an investigation on the delay in the release of funds for medical frontliners who succumbed to the coronavirus disease and those who fell sick while treating patients.

Duterte reportedly wanted to look into what exactly took place, who were responsible for the delay and why it took them two months to process the release of financial assistance.

Meanwhile, while checks are available, the families of seven healthcare workers who died of COVID-19 are still unable to receive the P1-million compensation.

According to the Department of Health (DOH), 25 families had received their checks, worth P1 million each, as of yesterday.

It said the immediate relatives of two of the 32 healthcare workers who died of COVID are abroad, although steps have been taken to facilitate and identify other family members who could receive the compensation on their behalf.

Aside from the two, the DOH said there are five other families who have yet to submit the required documents before the checks can be released.

Under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, healthcare workers who died of COVID are entitled to a compensation of P1 million while the severely infected get P100,000.

The DOH said it is validating the list of severely or critically infected, initially numbering around 79. But half were stricken off the list after they were found to be suffering only mild symptoms.

While the agency has processed 10 checks, it is still validating the cases of 42 that remain in the list.

Based on DOH data, 2,710 health workers tested positive for COVID as of June 5. Of the figure, 1,504 have recovered from the infection while 32 succumbed to the illness.

Of the total healthcare workers infected with COVID, 998 were nurses and 736 were doctors. DOH said doctors accounted for 25 of those who died, three were nurses and four non-medical staff.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and Undersecretary Roger Tong-an have personally delivered checks to the heirs of the fallen frontliners.

President Duterte, who was angered last week after reports that none of those who died were yet to be compensated by the government, gave the DOH only until tomorrow to distribute the financial aid.

DOH chief of staff

Meanwhile, Duque said he would appoint incoming Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega as his “chief of staff,” saying the latter is more than competent. Vega was director of the Southern Philippines Medical Center (SPMC) in Davao City before his new appointment.

Duque told The STAR that President Duterte had mentioned the appointment and that he supported this.

“I told the President that doctor Vega is good. I support the President because I know doctor Vega from way back… Having him at the DOH is welcome. I can work with him,” he said.

The health chief recalled that he was the one who appointed Vega as SPMC head in 2009 during his first stint as DOH secretary, noting that he saw Vega’s potential early on.

“Doctor Vega has played a significant role in expanding the SPMC. His track record and competence has made the SPMC one of the outstanding medical centers of the DOH,” he maintained.

As chief of staff, Vega will oversee and supervise the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Secretary and he will make sure that pending deliverables from executive members are accomplished.

Malacañang has announced Vega’s appointment after Duterte berated the DOH for the delayed compensation of 32 health workers who succumbed to COVID-19.

Asked about the criticisms being thrown at him and the DOH, Duque lamented that his detractors do not see the agency’s accomplishments in combatting COVID-19.

“They do not look into the reports of the DOH. They do not take into consideration what we have done, like the flattening of the curve (of the epidemic),” he said.

He added that the department was able to strengthen the country’s healthcare system by increasing the capacity for isolation beds, intensive care unit beds and mechanical ventilators and decreasing the case doubling time for the virus, among others – accomplishments that were ignored.

“I have many enemies.  Even the pharmaceutical industry is against me because I pushed for the implementation of the maximum drug retail prices… But I hope they can see what DOH has been doing during this crisis,” he added.

The DOH reported nine new deaths, bringing the total number who died of COVID-19 nationwide since the onset of the pandemic to 1,003.

Last week, the DOH claimed “small victories” against the disease while noting a decline in the number of deaths daily. So far, three was the lowest daily COVID mortality.    Sheila Crisostomo

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