Go pushes for more inclusive allowances, benefits to HCWs during pandemic

Go pushes for more inclusive allowances, benefits to HCWs during pandemic

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senator Christopher “Bong” Go pushed for the passage of a
measure which seeks to provide continuing and more inclusive
allowances and benefits to healthcare workers during the existence of
the state of public health emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a speech during a hearing jointly conducted by Senate Committees on
Finance, Ways and Means, and Health, Go underscored the importance of
the 2022 budget in overcoming the current health crisis.

“Foremost in this fight, we must ensure the well-being of our
healthcare workers. As such, I want to highlight the need to include
in the 2022 budget the allowances for our healthcare workers. Nakataya
po ang buhay nila dito. Bawat araw po ay nasa panganib ang kanilang
buhay,” said Go, also chair of the Health Committee.

He noted that some hospitals are nearing or already at full capacity
level, burdening many healthcare workers. This, according to Go,
prompted President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent directive to the Armed
Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police to deploy
members of their medical corps to reinforce the hospitals in Metro
Manila.

“Nito ngang nakaraan, umabot na sa full or critical capacity ang ilan
sa mga ospital dito sa Metro Manila, kagaya ng St. Luke’s Medical
Center, Medical City, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, UERM Medical
Center at Philippine Heart Center, dahil sa dami na po ng nagpapagamot
at dahil nahahawa at nagkakasakit na ang karamihan sa kanilang mga
healthcare workers,” noted the senator who is also one of the vice
chairs of the Finance Committee.

“This is why President (Rodrigo) Duterte asked the Armed Forces of the
Philippines and the Philippine National Police to deploy members of
their medical corps to reinforce hospitals,” he added.

In line with this, the Senator pushed for the passage of Senate Bill
No. 2398 which provides benefits and allowances to all healthcare
workers who are engaged in health and health-related work in health
facilities during the state of public health emergency due to the
COVID-19 pandemic.

“Sa totoo lang po, hindi naman mababayaran ng kahit anuman po ang
buhay, ngunit mahalaga na bilang pagkilala na rin po sa sakripisyo
nila para sa ating bayan, bigyan natin sila ng dapat nilang
matanggap,” said Go, referring to healthcare workers.

This is in line with his earlier call to expand the provision of the
Special Risk Allowance to all healthcare workers serving in the
hospitals. Go said that the bill is more inclusive in terms of
eligible healthcare workers covered by the allowances and benefits.

“Lahat naman po ng healthcare workers na naka-duty ay maituturing na
exposed sa banta ng COVID-19. Hindi po nakikita ang kalaban na ito
kung kaya’t mahirap paghiwalayin kung sino ang exposed at sino po ang
hindi,” said Go.

“Sabi ko nga, pagdating mo sa loob ng ospital, hindi mo naman masasabi
kung hindi ka exposed. Pag nasa loob ka na, prone at maituturing na
exposed ka na rin. Hindi mo masasabi na walang virus ‘yung dinaanan mo
kasi hindi nga natin nakikita ang COVID-19,” he added.

Under the bill, a fixed monthly COVID-19 special risk allowance for
every month that healthcare workers served during the state of
national emergency will be provided to them. The allowance will be in
addition to the hazard pay granted under the “Magna Carta of Public
Health Workers”.

The measure also provides Active Hazard Duty Pay for public health
workers according to Go. This means that in the event of COVID-19
exposure or any work-related illness or disease, PhilHealth will
continue to cover all of its medical expenses. Public and private
healthcare personnel who contract COVID-19 in the course of their work
will also be compensated.

To provide enough legal basis for the continued provision of
allowances this year, the Senator said that included in the bill is
the retroactive application of allowances beginning July 1, 2021. All
allowances will also be tax-free.

Meanwhile, Go noted that for the first part of the year, Duterte has
directed the Department of Health and the Department of Budget and
Management to expedite the provision of the mandated allowances,
including the SRA.

“Recently, the President approved the release of P407 million to cover
the SRA of additional eligible healthcare workers. With this, the
government will be able to cover the SRA of a total of 117,926 more
healthcare workers since the President’s pronouncement,” said Go.

“Hindi pa po natatapos ang pandemya kaya dapat tuluy-tuloy lang ang
pagbibigay natin sa kanila ng mga benepisyo,” he added.

Go then requested the Department of Health to be more flexible and
offer healthcare workers with the benefits that they are entitled to
if their budget allows it.

“Nanawagan na ako noong nakaraan sa DOH na maging flexible tayo kung
kakayanin po ng pondo. Bigyan na ang lahat ng qualified ng fixed na
amount ng SRA kaysa bilangin pa natin ang kanilang pag-duty bawat
araw,” said Go.

“Nagkakaroon kasi ng mga reklamo sa computation at minsan hindi
nagiging transparent ang computation. Ako mismo, madaming lumalapit.
Para maiwasan ito, mas mabuti kung fixed amount na kada buwan ang
allowance,” he added.

As healthcare workers continue their lifesaving work, Go said it is
incumbent upon the government to show gratitude by providing them
benefits that will improve their financial situation. He said that
they should not be made to indefinitely bear the pressure of fighting
a deadly virus without adequate compensation.

“Kailanman ay hindi sila pababayaan ng gobyerno. Ang ating mga medical
frontliners ay ang mga sundalo sa gyerang ito. Sila ang tinuturing
nating bayani sa laban na ito,” Go assured.

“Pakiusap ko lang po sa mga frontliners, huwag po kayong mawalan ng
pag-asa. Tulungan ninyo po ang ating mga kababayan, kayo po ang
nakakaalam sa gyerang ito,” he added.

Go then thanked all healthcare workers for their sacrifices and
continuing services to the country during the pandemic.

“Rest assured na handa kami ni Pangulong Duterte na makinig at
magserbisyo sa inyong lahat. Salamat po muli sa inyong sakripisyo sa
panahong ito,” ended Go.(ai/mtvn)

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