Bill seeks increased benefits for HCWs

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
Bill seeks increased benefits for HCWs
Health workers at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute attend to patients at the triage set up at the hospital lobby on Aug. 15, 2021.
The STAR / Michael Varcas, file

MANILA, Philippines — A measure seeking to increase the government’s grant of hazard pay and other benefits for healthcare workers (HCWs) has been filed in the House of Representatives.

House Bill 7490, authored by Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte, wants to provide hazard pay to all healthcare frontliners, equivalent to at least 30 percent of their respective basic salaries during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

If approved, a nurse earning P20,000 in a government hospital will receive a hazard pay of P6,000 or an increase of 100 percent from the P3,000 per month granted to HCWs since last year. However, this could be lower depending on the number of days the worker physically reports to the hospital.

Villafuerte proposed that the hazard pay be also given to workers of third-party service contractors like security guards and janitors who are assigned to medical facilities treating COVID-infected patients.

HB 7490 also seeks to plug the loopholes in the system of releasing benefits to HCWs in both the public and private health sectors and address the growing complaints of medical frontline workers about the delay in the release of their pandemic benefits under the Bayanihan 2 law and the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

Villafuerte stressed that long-term solutions should be put in place to prevent them from staging protests and mass resignations.

“The growing unrest is alarming, especially given the problems plaguing the country’s health care infrastructure and the looming shortage of medical frontliners. We need to write these bills into laws soon enough so that the release of such benefits for health care workers will be mandatory without any need for a presidential directive,”?he said.

He also filed HB 9670, which seeks to amend the existing Magna Carta of Public Health Workers by increasing the rates of their overtime pay and other incentives and benefits – from 10 percent to 20 percent for the night shift differential pay, P300 daily subsistence allowance and a P10,000 monthly hazard allowance, which can be increased by the secretary of health.

The bill also proposes to increase the laundry allowance of public health workers required to wear uniforms from P125 to P500 per month or higher as may be determined in the future by the Department of Health (DOH).

At a recent budget hearing, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III informed the House committee on appropriations that the benefits for HCWs were no longer included in the department’s proposed  budget after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) slashed next year’s DOH outlay for COVID-19 response from P73.99 billion to just P19.68 billion.

Duque said the original P73.99-billion proposal included P50.41 billion for the special risk, meals and transportation allowances of health care workers.

He added that there is also no allocation next year for the HCWs’ additional benefits because this financial aid was tucked into the Bayanihan to Arise as One bill (Bayanihan 3), the stimulus bill the House had already approved but which is still pending at the Senate.

President Duterte earlier gave the DOH and DBM a 10-day deadline to release the benefits due to health care workers on the frontlines of the country’s battle against the coronavirus.

The Chief Executive issued the deadline to the DOH and DBM after several health workers’ groups lamented that they have yet to receive their allowances and benefits amid the pandemic.

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