President Rodrigo Duterte has directed the Department of Health (DOH) to facilitate the immediate release of benefits of front-line health workers.
Duterte gave the fresh directive amid complaints from some groups of medical professionals from private hospitals about the non-release of their special risk allowance (SRA) and the removal of their other benefits amid the prevailing coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
In a pre-recorded Talk to the People delivered Friday night and aired Saturday morning, Duterte told Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to use its available funds and look for other sources of funding to compensate healthcare workers.
“I am committed to leading our nation out of this pandemic, with the help of front-line institutions so that we can be victorious,” Duterte said. “Secretary Duque, bayaran mo (pay [the medical front-liners]. Use whatever money there is. Bayaran mo ‘yung hinihingi ng mga nurses (Give what the nurses are asking for), both in government and those outside of government volunteers.”
Duterte also gave the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) at least “10 days” to release the funds for the distribution of benefits to medical front-liners.
“Itong naghawak ng pera, DBM, I’m giving you 10 days [to release the money],” he said. “Ibigay mo yung pera kay Secretary Duque tapos bayaran niya (Give the money to Secretary Duque so he can pay the health workers’ benefits).”
Duterte likewise expressed willingness to use his office’s contingency fund to ensure the speedy release of health workers’ benefits.
He made the commitment to ensure that all medical front-liners would receive their allowances and other benefits amid the pandemic.
“Basta maghanap ka ng pera (Just look for money) and any deficiency, I will supply it with a contingency fund, if may naiwan pa (there is still any). Pero (But) I’m willing to share the burden doon sa funds ko (by sharing my funds) independently in what we have. You just raise the money. Tell me how much you would still need and if I can provide, say immediately,” he said.
Under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2), medical front-liners are entitled to receive SRA and hazard pay, on top of their usual benefits under existing laws.
On June 1 this year, Duterte signed Administrative Order (AO) 42, which grants SRA of up to PHP5,000 per month to private and public health workers with direct exposure to Covid-19 patients.
AO 42, which amends AO 36, the grant of Covid-19 SRA shall be pro-rated based on the number of days that the front-line health workers physically report for work in a month, as certified by the head of the hospital, laboratory, or medical and quarantine facility, or his/her authorized representatives, reckoned from Sept. 15, 2020 until June 30, 2021.
The funding, according to AO 42, shall be sourced from the PHP13.5 billion appropriated under Section 10(a) of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Bayanihan 1) for health-related responses to Covid-19.
Duterte inked AO 42 to “recognize the heroic and invaluable contribution of our health workers throughout the country, who bravely and unselfishly risk their lives and health by being at the forefront of national efforts to respond to the pandemic.” (PNA)