House OKs bill granting benefits to health workers

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
House OKs bill granting benefits to health workers
Health workers attend to patients at the Mandaluyong City Medical Center on Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2022.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos, file

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives has approved a measure that will institutionalize benefits for the country’s medical frontliners.

In hybrid plenary session last Wednesday afternoon, congressmen decided via voice voting to approve on second reading House Bill 10701 that seeks to provide continuous benefits for public and private health care workers (HCWs) as well as barangay health workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and future health emergencies.

The plenary passed the measure just two days after it was approved by the appropriations committee chaired by ACT-CIS and Benguet caretaker Rep. Eric Yap.

“This is one of our ways to support our HCWs who are considered heroes in this pandemic. This is an affirmation of the commitment by our Congress to protect the welfare of our frontliners and somehow reciprocate the sacrifices they made for our country in battling COVID-19,” Yap explained.

Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte called on fellow congressmen for a swift passage of the measure in the plenary to complement President Duterte’s order for the release of P1.185 billion for the special risk allowance (SRA) of medical frontliners.

“The Congress can go one step further by passing the bill institutionalizing this allowance and other benefits for our medical frontliners,” he said.

Villafuerte authored House Bill 10365, which aims to provide insurance coverage, special risk allowance and other benefits to HCWs.

These proposed benefits would cover both public and private health care workers and would be granted to them during the period of the state of national calamity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In approving the measure, the panel adopted the recommendation of the Department of Health (DOH) to drop several benefits such as active hazard duty pay, life insurance, as well as accommodation, meal and transportation allowances and just have a more inclusive and “singular” COVID-19 allowance for medical frontliners.

DOH Assistant Secretary Maylene Beltran said the department supports the intent of the measures, which aim to universally accord benefits for health care workers at the frontlines of the pandemic.

“While the Department of Health supports the intent propounded by the bills, it, however, proposes that a singular allowance be offered, which will cover and substitute for all the benefits enumerated in the bills,” Beltran said.

“In addition, the rate of the allowance will vary according to the risk exposure of the health care worker in particular work settings. They can be either low, medium or high risk of exposure,” she added.

For its part, the Department of Budget and Management said that while it supports the measure, it raised concern on the actual requirement of magnitude given the fiscal position of government.

Apart from allowance, the substitute bill also states that in case of death, P1 million shall be provided to the heirs of the covered individuals while in case of sickness, for a severe or critical case, P100,000 shall be provided to them.

Further, those with mild or moderate case will be given P15,000.

The compensation provided in the proposed measure shall be given to beneficiaries not later than three months after the date of confinement or death.

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