Health workers eye mass protest over unreleased benefits; call DOH, Duque a liar

Health workers on Monday warned that they would stage a mass protest against the government if the Department of Health (DOH) fails to release their long-sought-after benefits amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) national president Robert Mendoza said health workers in both the public and private sector have been planning to hold a mass protest.

“Kami rin ay mag-a-announce rin, kasama ng private hospitals, ng mga malakihang pagkilos para iparating sa gobyerno ‘yung ating mga hinaing, grievances, at pagkadismaya sa panahong ito,” he said in an online forum.

(We will also announce, along with private hospitals, a mass action to relay to the government our grievances and disappointment at this time.)

Jao Clumia, president of the St. Luke’s Medical Center Quezon City Employees Association, said they would also reach out to other health workers across the country to join their protest.

“Sa mga private health workers, meron na kaming nakaplano na sama-samang pagkilos. Ito ‘yung malawakan na tinatawag naming ‘lockdown,'” he said, adding that the details are still being ironed out.

(Private health workers plan to hold a big movement that we call a ‘lockdown.’)

AHW assured the public that a skeletal workforce would remain in hospitals to ensure the provision of medical services.

Clumia added that the mass action may not push through if their concerns are addressed by the government.

Health workers catering to COVID-19 patients have repeatedly called on the DOH to release the benefits due to them under the Bayanihan 2 law, which expired on June 30.

The DOH previously said it had already released special risk allowances (SRA) worth P9 billion to regional offices and hospitals.

For health workers, however, the DOH is lying.

“Kaya ko sinasabi na sinungaling… Nagpapahayag kayo sa mga media na ang mga health worker sa private sector ay nabigyan ng sinasabi ninyong benepisyo. Ano nga po ‘yung benepisyo? Hindi nga po natatanggap ‘yung nakapaloob doon sa DOH Administrative Order 2020-0054,” Clumia said.

(I say they’re lying because… You tell the media that health workers in the private sector have been given benefits. What are the benefits? We haven’t even received those included in the DOH Administrative Order 2020-0054.)

The said DOH order states guidelines on the provision of life insurance, accommodation, transportation, and meals to public and private health workers under the Bayanihan 2 law.

AHW secretary general Benjamin Santos Jr. also called Health Secretary Francisco Duque III a liar, citing the Commission on Audit’s flagging of deficiencies in the DOH’s utilization of COVID-19 funds worth P67.32 billion.

“Ang lagi niyang sinasabi ay wala siyang magagawa sapagkat isa lamang siya sa ahensya ng gobyerno na tumutugon dito. Subalit ngayon, malalaman pala natin na ang karamihan at bilyon-bilyong pondo ng DOH ay misused, unused, at unutilized,” he said.

(He always says there’s nothing he can do because he is only one of the agencies of the government involved in this. But now, we’ve learned that billions of DOH funds are misused, unused, and unutilized.)

“Kaya po direktang masasabi natin na nagsisinungaling si Secretary Duque sa harap ng milyon-milyong mga health worker,” Santos added.

(That’s why we can directly say that Duque is lying in front of millions of health workers.)

GMA News Online sought Duque’s comment on the matter but he has yet to issue a reply.

DOH response

In a separate briefing, Health Undersecretary Leopoldo Vega, chief of staff of the DOH Administration and Financial Management Team, acknowledged the grievances of health workers.

“I think it is their right to complain but we also make sure that we will be able to talk to them and also work out some mechanism wherein they will be able to also be given those privileges,” he said.

Vega said 306,314 health workers have received their SRA under the Bayanihan 2 law for the period of September 15 to December 19, 2020, while 359,501 have gotten their SRA for December 20, 2020 to June 30, 2021.

He also said 384,159 health workers have been given their hazard pay under Bayanihan 2 and 23,081 have received sickness and death benefits, while P1.3 billion worth of meals, accommodation, and transportation allowances have been paid out.–AOL, GMA News

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