Health group: One COVID-19 Allowance 'discriminatory'

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 23) — The One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) proposed by the Department of Health is "discriminatory" as it involves unequal distribution of benefits among health workers, the Alliance of Health Workers said on Sunday.

It said the DOH should do away with the risk stratification and distribute benefits to all health workers evenly.

"Nakakagalit kasi discriminatory ito sa mga health worker, at the same time, divisive sa mga health worker. Wala sanang pinipili kung low, medium, or high kasi ang virus wala naman pinipili," said AHW president Roberto Mendoza.

[Translation: It is disappointing because it is discriminatory and divisive to health workers. We hope they would do away with the low, medium, or high risk classification because the virus does not choose who to infect in the first place.]

The DOH earlier said the OCA will replace the special risk allowance. Instead of receiving it in tranches, the OCA will be given to hospital employees on a monthly basis.

Risk, meal, transportation, and accommodation allowances are included in the OCA.

But for the health workers' group, these are "not enough." Mendoza expressed hope that their proposed benefits, including the special risk allowance of ₱15,000 and active hazard duty pay of ₱5,000, would still be granted.

"Ang problema sa Department of Health, tinipid ang ating health workers. Sana iparamdam naman ng gobyerno ang pangangalaga at pagmamahal nila sa ating health workers dahil matagal na (silang) dismayado," he said.

[Translation: The problem with the Department of Health is that it's not providing enough for our health workers. We hope they will do something about this because our frontliners have long been dismayed with the government.]

The DOH said it is up to the hospitals to identify employees who are at low, medium, or high risk.

"This will be given on a monthly basis. It depends on the risk or stratification of the risk they are having for COVID. Different administrations, or the hospital directors, (will clarify) who the health workers in the low-risk category are, who will receive ₱3,000, and the medium-risk category to receive ₱6,000, and the high-risk category to receive ₱9,000," said Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega.

He also said non-medical workers, such as janitors and security guards, of hospitals will receive the OCA.

"Pwede sila makatanggap as long as they are employed by the institution on a contractual basis," said Vega.

[Translation: They are also entitled to benefits as long as they are employed by the institution on a contractual basis.]

The agency said it allocated ₱50 billion of its 2022 budget for the OCA, but only ₱7.9 billion is "for later release."

Groups such as the AHW urged the government to give the appropriate amount of benefits to medical workers, who are on the front lines of the battle against COVID-19. They also hoped the distribution of the promised benefits will be on time.

CNN Philippines' Currie Cator contributed to this report.