By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go has pledged to push
for the passage of a bill that will give continued and more inclusive
allowances and benefits to healthcare workers (HCWs) while the
COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a public health emergency.
In an ambush interview during his distribution of assistance to
various sectors and turnover of checks to Davao Regional Medical Center
in Tagum City, Davao del Norte, Go said that all HCWs should get the
same allowances without any distinction, pointing out that they are
all equally exposed to the virus.
This prompted him to file Senate Bill No. 2398 which seeks to provide
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.
“Dapat po ay walang sinasabing distinction between itong exposed at
hindi exposed. Dahil ‘pag pumasok ka sa hospital, eh hindi mo nakikita
si COVID, expose ka na talaga,” said Go.
“Kaya dapat i-fix natin ito. Basta nakapag-duty ka sa hospital –
ma-doctor, ma-nurse, ma-janitor o ma-utility men diyan na naglilinis
po, ‘pag nasa hospital, ‘pag nagkasalubong po kayo, exposed ka na po.
So, dapat wala na pong pili, walang pili po dapat,” he added.
As HCWs continue to save lives, Go believed the government owes them a
debt of gratitude and should give them additional benefits. He
believed people should not be forced to undergo the stress of fighting
a fatal infection indefinitely without proper remuneration.
“Ibigay natin ‘yung mga incentives at allowances na dapat, nararapat
sa ating mga health care workers. Mahirap po maging healthcare worker
ngayon, mahirap po maging frontliner sa panahon ngayon,” said Go.
“Hindi po basta-basta ang trabaho nila. Napakaliit lang po na halaga
ito para sa kanilang serbisyo sa ating mga kababayan. Sila po ang
isinabak natin sa giyerang ito. So huwag ho natin silang pabayaan,” he
Senate Bill No. 2421 takes into consideration Go’s filed bill and
provides a COVID-19 Risk Allowance in lieu of the special risk
allowance, active hazard duty pay, life insurance, and other
allowances granted under Bayanihan 2. All HCWs deployed in “low risk
areas” will be given P3,000; those in “medium risk areas” will be
given P6,000; those in “high-risk areas” will be given P9,000.
The measure also provides PhilHealth coverage for direct healthcare
costs of hospitalized health workers due to COVID-19. Public and
private healthcare personnel who contract COVID-19 in the course of
their work will also be compensated.
The senator said that included in the bill is the retroactive
application of allowances beginning July 1, 2021.
“At ako naman po, ipaglalaban ko ang ating mga frontliners sa kahit
anong paraan po, ipaglalaban ko po kayo bilang Senate Committee Chair
on Health ay nandidito po ako na ipaglaban kayo. What is due sa inyo
dapat po ibigay po para sa inyong lahat,” said Go.
He also pushed the government to spend more in the country’s
healthcare system, claiming that doing so would set off a chain
reaction that would lead to the economy’s recovery.
“The more we should invest ngayon sa ating healthcare. Ito po ang
problema natin ngayon. It follows na po ‘yan lahat – ibig kong
sabihin, ‘pag naging normal po ang sitwasyon natin sa pangkalusugan ay
sunud-sunod na po ‘yan – ekonomiya, pagbukas ng ekonomiya, at pagbalik
sa sigla ng ekonomiya, dagdag trabaho na, makabalik na po sa normal,
na makapagtrabaho na po ‘yung ating mga kababayan,” said Go.
In his visit, Go witnessed the turnover of financial assistance to
Davao Regional Medical Center for the Purchase of One Lot High
Pressure Oxygen Booster Equipment worth Php. 25,000,000.
This will improve the hospital’s existing oxygen refilling machine by
giving it its own supply under its control. This will help it to not
become too dependent on 3rd parties for supplies, especially when
supplies run low.
During the interview, Go also shared some of the health measures he
has filed to improve the country’s healthcare system. These include
that SB 2158, which establishes the Philippine Center for Disease
Control and Prevention; SB 1803, or the e-Health System and Services
Act of 2020, which aims to regulate the practice of telemedicine and
e-Health, set the standards of practice and implement a mechanism for
individuals and entities providing e-Health services; and SB 1529,
which seeks to require the establishment of quarantine facilities in
every region in the country.
“Ito pong mga iba’t ibang bills na makakatulong po sa pagbabalik natin
sa ating normal na kabuhayan,” said Go.
Go expressed optimism that this legislation will acquire pace in the
Senate once the Senate’s current priority, the proposed 2022 budget,
is passed. As the vaccine program expands, Go also hopes for a better
holiday season for the country.
“Hopefully, makamtan po natin ‘yan. Sa ngayon, mayroon na tayong more
than 88 million doses of vaccine ang dumating at mahigit 23 million
Filipinos are fully vaccinated. Ang nakapag-first dose, more than 27
million na po. Tuluy-tuloy po ito, ‘yung ating vaccine rollout,” said