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16,764 health workers have yet to receive COVID-19 hazard pay
Health workers of St. Jude Family Hospital in Los Baños, Laguna receive on March 25, 2020 donated personal protective equipment from different business sectors in the province.
The STAR/Walter Bollozos

16,764 health workers have yet to receive COVID-19 hazard pay

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - November 19, 2020 - 4:45pm

MANILA, Philippines — Months into the coronavirus crisis that has hit the country hard, over 16,000 Filipino hospital workers have not received hazard pay, as the health department admitted that the supposed funds from the Bayanihan To Heal As One Act have run dry.

Senate deliberation on the agency's proposed budget for 2021 found that 16,764 medical frontliners have yet to receive the said pay. Another 86,348 have already been compensated from more than P824 million in government funds. 

"The reason for it is, for this one, Mr. President, there is no more funding [from] Bayanihan 1," said Sen. Pia Cayetano, a sponsor of the proposed budget for the Department of Health.

For this, some P108.2 million are still needed to cover the thousands of health workers grappling with the pandemic that has infected over 413,000 in the country. 

Cayetano said as well that 60,682 health workers have received their special risk allowance.

Additional pay for medical workers

Two administrative orders were signed by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier this week which allowed additional pay to personnel in both public and private hospitals. 

Administrative Order 35 would grant workers up to P3,000 in hazard pay a month, while Administrative Order 36 would grant special risk allowance at P5,000 for those who directly attend to COVID-19 patients. 

RELATED: Duterte signs order granting active hazard pay to COVID-19 frontliners

"We have to figure out a way [on] how to fund this," said Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who raised the matter of payments to health workers. "Their service is already done but they will no longer get paid because there are no more funds..that would be outstanding obligations."

Nurses call out 'gross neglect' of sector

Filipino Nurses United said in a briefing on Thursday that it was outraged over "government's gross neglect" to provide compensation for nurses amid the ongoing health crisis. 

Latest figures from the health department showed that there are now 11,822 medical workers who have contracted the coronavirus while 72 have died since the outbreak in the country began.

Most of those infected — more than 4,600 — are nurses, FNU said. 

The group added that the unreleased hazard pay is a "deception to health workers who have already rendered work and placed their lives at risk."

"The DOH exacerbates the economic burden of nurses for making them work as frontline health workers in COVID-19 pandemic with delayed salaries, absence of COVID-duty hazard pay and special risk allowance under the emergency hiring program," said Maristela Abenojar, FNU's national president.

The health department has said that some P53 billion was allocated for support of health workers under "Bayanihan 2", which extends the emergency powers given to the president to deal with the pandemic and also allocates funding for those measures.

A statement by the agency in September said funds under the law will focus on workers' primary care as well as for the "improvement of the health system and its attendant benefits."

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
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