Health workers seek dialogue with Duterte for end to 'miserable plight'

Christian Deiparine - Philstar.com
Health workers seek dialogue with Duterte for end to 'miserable plight'
In this April 2020 photo, medical workers screen patients for possible COVID-19 before admission at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines — Health workers' unions on Tuesday sought for a dialogue with President Rodrigo Duterte over difficulties in their working conditions as they deal with the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

The Alliance of Health Workers, in a letter to the president, said that while they appreciate being recognized as heroes in the pandemic, "what we need right now is support and protection."

The letter was signed by 24 union leaders. They came from government-run medical facilities such as the Philippine General Hospital, National Center for Mental Health, Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, and the Philippine Heart Center, to name a few.

"For more than a year now, we have selflessly offered our health and lives to overcome this pandemic," the letter read. "Thus, it is only right to sincerely ask you to hear upon our miserable plight and seek a resolution to our misery."

Leaders said the pandemic has worsened the condition in hospitals already understaffed even before the health crisis hit. In COVID-19 wards, they said one nurse has to tend to 12 patients, while a nursing aide has 35.

"This is one tough job as health workers are going on 12 to 24 hours duty that leads to extreme fatigue and burnout," they added. "We are calling for mass hiring of health workers now with permanent plantilla positions."

UPDATE: Earlier, the Alliance of Health Workers unions and chapters from different public hospitals sent a letter to...

Posted by Alliance of Health Workers - AHW National on Tuesday, 13 April 2021

They also raised concern over the distribution of COVID-related benefits under the second Bayanihan to Heal as One Law.

The measure provides for special risk allowance as well as for meals, transportation and accommodation to health workers. But to date, they said that these benefits from the period of September to December 2020 have yet to be released.

In March, Sen. Sonny Angara, Senate finance committee chairperson, sought updates from the Department of Health over the rollout of benefits to medical personnel. It came after staff at the National Kidney Transplant Institute held a protest over the delay in the release of some P82 million funding.

It is unclear if the DOH has responded to the lawmaker's letter.

Union leaders appealed too before Duterte for more personal protective equipment in their workplaces. By April 12, the DOH said 16,510 health workers in total have contracted the COVID-19, where 86 have already died. 

Some 628 of the said figure remain as active cases, while 15,796 have since recovered.

"We hope that through this meeting, a resolution to end our agony will be achieved," the letter to Duterte continued. 

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