Health workers’ groups ask govt to beef up COVID-19 response fund, renews calls for benefits

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 28) — Private hospitals are once again calling for the release of unpaid benefits which medical frontliners are entitled to during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Thursday, several healthcare workers’ and progressive groups trooped to the Senate during its deliberations on the Department of Health’s ₱16.45 billion budget for 2022.

According to them, many hospitals have yet to receive the special risk allowance which is supposed to be distributed to health workers attending to COVID-19 patients.

“Ang totoo ‘di pa rin namin nakukuha ‘yung dati, so ang hirap umusad, ang hirap umasa ulit para sa panibagong batas,” said Donell Siazon, president of the Alliance of Health Workers-University of Santo Tomas Union.

[Translation: The truth is we have yet to receive our benefits from before, so it’s difficult to hope for a new law.]

“Pero ‘yung meal, accommodation and transportation sa tantsa namin nasa 80% (of healthcare workers) ang hindi pa nakakatanggap,” he added.

[Translation: For the meal, accommodation and transportation allowance, we estimate that around 80% of healthcare workers have not yet received it.]

Presidential aspirant Leody De Guzman, president of Bukluran ng Manggagawa, also joined the picket. He said instead of focusing on payment of debts accumulated during the pandemic, the government should see to it that the country’s COVID-19 response is prioritized.

“Ang panawagan namin itigil ang pagbayad utang at gamitin muna ang pambayad utang sa laban para sa COVID-19,” says De Guzman.

[Translation: We call on the government to allocate funds first for COVID-19 response before using these to pay debts.]

The Private Hospitals Association also expressed concern over the increasing number of doctors and nurses opting to work abroad amid the country’s battle against COVID-19.

According to Siazon, around 10% of nurses have resigned over the last few weeks for opportunities in other countries.