Recto wants pay hike for social workers
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said social workers in public clinics and hospitals comprise the group of forgotten and neglected health frontliners to whom the nation owes so much.
Recto office/file
Recto wants pay hike for social workers
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 27, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The salaries of social workers must be increased as they are the frontliners with the most number of “patients” in hospitals, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said yesterday.

He said social workers in public clinics and hospitals comprise the group of forgotten and neglected health frontliners to whom the nation owes so much.

He said the “best belated thank you card” the government can give them is to make their minimum pay equal to nurses, P32,035 a month or Salary Grade 15 in the government pay scale.

“Social workers have the biggest number of clients in a hospital. Anyone who lacks the money, which means most of those who seek treatment nowadays, automatically becomes their ‘patient.’ This is because all those who are hospitalized share one comorbidity: poverty. It is fatal. This is a land where every family is one major illness away from bankruptcy,” Recto pointed out.

He said social workers help them and their families find relief, by becoming their advocates for discounts and free treatments. They refer them to agencies that can extend financial help.

“They’re (social workers) first to be met by relatives of those hospitalized. Their desks are not only full of papers, but also tears,” Recto said.

Sen. Grace Poe, meanwhile, said doctors who brave the frontlines – with or without the pandemic – to give their services for free to where health care needs are at their direst deserve recognition and incentives.

In her Senate Bill 1715 or the Physician Pro Bono Care Act, Poe pitched that physicians rendering free services to indigent patients shall be entitled to a tax credit to be deducted from their gross income.

“A number of doctors have taken it upon themselves to volunteer and render free health services to our people who cannot afford to seek medical attention. The tax incentive is a way of giving back for their selflessness, commitment and expertise,” she said.

Under the measure, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Philippine Medical Association (PMA) are tasked to evaluate the pro bono services rendered by the physicians, considering the number of hours and the nature of treatment involved.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue, in consultation with the DOH and the PMA, will promulgate the rules and regulations for the implementation of the measure.

In pushing for her proposal, Poe underscored the constitutional right of Filipinos to have access to health services, and for the government to endeavor to provide free medical care to the poor.

In 2019, the Philippines had a woeful doctor-to-patient ratio of 1:33,000 – far from the 1:6,600 global average. Worse, six out of 10 Filipinos die without seeing a doctor, she lamented.

Poe said the COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the country’s healthcare system and highlighted the importance of having adequate number of doctors in protecting and advancing public health.

The pandemic also widened the gap to quality healthcare access among the poor and the marginalized, she said.

“Truthful to their oath, doctors reduce or even forgo their fees based on patients’ circumstances. But we recognize that they also have a need to sustain their profession and that’s where tax incentives could be most helpful. If doctors could write off their pro bono work on their taxes, we would see more charity care. This is a win-win situation for patients and doctors,” Poe said.

RALPH RECTO
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