Hontiveros urges investigation on unpaid salary, benefits for healthcare workers
This undated photo shows the response team for COVID-19 patients at Quezon City General Hospital as number of patients in city rises.
The STAR/Michael Varcas

Hontiveros urges investigation on unpaid salary, benefits for healthcare workers

(Philstar.com) - December 3, 2020 - 5:28pm

 MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called for an investigation into the 'bottlenecks' delaying the release of hazard pay and special risk allowance for healthcare frontliners amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

In filing Senate Resolution No. 584, the lawmaker called attention to protests staged by medical frontliners over their alleged lack of compensation since March.

"They have been working almost all year and all pandemic without hazard pay. Administrative Order No. 35 issued by Malacanang mandates that an additional P3,000 every month be distributed to health workers, but we cannot even pay them their basic benefits. that we owe them," she said in a statement.

"We cannot be thankful for their contribution but they have not yet given their meager hazard pay and special risk allowance. The real gratitude is its immediate release. They also have families," she added.

The coronavirus pandemic has raised questions over the treatment of healthcare workers in the Philippines, a largely undersupported sector despite being comprised of essential workers. 

For instance, when medical collectives called for a healthcare "time-out" in August, among their calls was for adequate compensation and benefits, particularly for healthcare workers who had tested positive for the coronavirus. 

READ: Has pandemic response been recalibrated or is MECQ a repeat of the same policies?

Though the national government heeded calls for an enhanced community quarantine, many of the sector's demands went largely unanswered. 

"It's December. Why are there 16,764 medical front liners still unpaid? Where is the bottleneck? The fight is still long especially for our health workers. We need to investigate so we can loosen the bottleneck and create policies that allow us to compensate them and their families fairly and immediately," Hontiveros asked.

"We are purely lip service to our health workers. We cannot keep making promises and underdelivering. We cannot wait for the next health emergency; we have to make things better now. But should there be another crisis, we have to make sure this never happens to them again," she also said.

As of the health department's latest case bulletin issued on Thursday afternoon, some 435,000 coronavirus infections have been recorded in the Philippines since the pathogen first emerged in December. 

The Philippines, under the world's longest quarantine after 261 days, still records thousands of cases per day, but Roque himself continues to assert that the national government has managed the pandemic well.

"Healthcare workers are also victims of this economic crisis we are all experiencing. Yet they do their job despite the risks and save millions of lives everyday. Our minimum but important duty is to at least pay them right and on time," Hontiveros said.

— Franco Luna 

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