By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Joel Villanueva pushed the passage of a bill that
would institutionalize additional benefits for health workers, saying
action should speak louder than words in giving honor to those who put
their lives on the line in the battle against COVID-19.
“We can shower our health care workers with words of admiration,
praises, and all kinds of love languages,” said Villanueva in his
sponsorship speech Wednesday night. “I am sure that they will
appreciate it. But action speaks louder than words.”
“From the very beginning when we have yet to know the gravity of the
COVID-19 pandemic, when we thought the lockdown would end after two
weeks, our health care workers answered the call of duty and continue
to do so,” continued Villanueva.
“Sa puntong ito, tapatan natin ng mga konkretong aksyon at benepisyo
ang sakripisyo ng ating mga health care worker na binibigay ang sarili
nila nang buong-buo para labanan ang COVID-19,” he said.
Citing data from the Department of Health, Villanueva said the
Philippines currently has 25,411 medical and non-medical frontline
workers who have contracted COVID-19. At least 366 of these are active
cases, he said.
Aside from medical frontliners, non-medical health workers are also
exposed to the risks of COVID-19 daily, he added. These are barangay
health workers, administration staff, utility, social workers, dietary
staff, security guards, drivers, and hospital employees, Villanueva
“Every day, they fear for their lives, for the lives of their
families,” he said.
The ordeal that healthcare workers are going through is compounded by
the resignation and early retirement of many of them “because they are
exhausted, overworked, and tired.”
“We can prevent further resignation of healthcare workers by ensuring
that they receive proper benefits, and – if I may emphasize this
important point, that they receive these benefits expeditiously,
without any unnecessary delay,” Villanueva said.
By making additional benefits a permanent part of the compensation
package for health care workers, the government would show that it was
not merely paying lip service to these pandemic heroes, he said.
These benefits include COVID risk allowance, compensation for those
who get COVID, regular testing, and full PhilHealth coverage, according
to Villanueva. Also important, he said, was providing “definite
timelines as to when these should be distributed.”
“We are giving a more appropriate and dignified salute to our pandemic
heroes,” Villanueva said. (ai/mtvn)