By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography Christopher “Bong” Go commended President Rodrigo Duterte for recently signing into law Republic Act No. 11712 which aims to provide health care workers continuing support amid the ongoing global health crisis.
In line with the government efforts to promote the interest and welfare of healthcare workers, the Act, which Go authored and co-sponsored in the Senate, grants mandatory continuing benefits and allowances to public and private healthcare workers (HCWs) during the COVID-19 pandemic or other public health emergencies.
“Maraming salamat po, Pangulong Rodrigo Duterte dahil palagi niyo pong inuuna ang kapakanan ng ating mga healthcare worker. Alam naman po natin na hindi talaga madali ang kanilang mga trabaho sa araw-araw,” Go remarked.
“Sila ang ating sinasabak sa pandemya na COVID-19, isang gyera kontra sa kalaban na hindi naman natin nakikita. Kaya naman nakakatuwa na mas lalo pa natin silang matutulungan sa pamamagitan ng batas na ito,” he added.
Public and private HCWs covered by the law are entitled to a health emergency allowance (HEA) for every month of service during a state of public health emergency based on the risk categorization.
For HCWs assigned in low-risk areas, they will receive PhP 3,000 while PhP 6,000 shall be given to those in medium-risk areas. Furthermore, those who will be working in high-risk areas will be granted PhP 9,000.
In addition, the healthcare workers will be receiving separate compensation if they contract COVID-19 while on duty. Those with mild to moderate symptoms will receive PhP 15,000 while individuals with severe symptoms or under a critical state will receive PhP 100,000.
Meanwhile, for those who unfortunately succumb to the virus, the government will be giving PhP 1,000,000 to the families they left behind.
“Lahat naman ng healthcare workers na naka-duty ay maituturing na exposed sa banta ng COVID-19. Hindi nakikita ang kalaban na ito kung kaya’t mahirap paghiwalayin pa kung sino ang exposed at sino ang hindi,” explained Go on why he pushed to expand the provision of such benefits.
Apart from the HCWs, non-health care workers (NHCWs) are also covered by the law, such as public and private medical, allied medical, administrative, technical, support and other necessary personnel employed by, and assigned in hospitals, health facilities, laboratories, medical or temporary treatment and monitoring facilities, or vaccination sites.
Likewise, Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) and outsourced personnel hired under an institutional or individual contract of service or job order who are similarly exposed to COVID-19, or other threats in times of public health emergencies, are included as non-healthcare workers under this Act.
The benefits under this Act shall have a retroactive application from July 1, 2021, and shall remain in full force and effect during the state of national public health emergency as declared by the President.
From the start, Go has been advocating for a stronger healthcare system in the country. He has also been consistent in pushing initiatives to benefit all Filipino healthcare workers. He had earlier appealed for the provision of allowances for HCWs at the height of the pandemic.
In 2019, the lawmaker was instrumental in the enactment of Republic Act No. 11466 or the “Salary Standardization Law 5”. The measure gives all civilian government employees, including nurses, increased salaries broken down in tranches.
In the same year, he also ensured that enough funding was allotted for the implementation of the 2019 Supreme Court decision that upheld Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which sets the minimum salary grade of the Nurse I position at SG-15.
“Patuloy ko pa rin pong hinihikayat ang mga kasamahan ko sa gobyerno na siguraduhin natin na mabigyan natin ng nararapat na benepisyo ang mga healthcare workers. Sila ang dahilan kung bakit nananatili tayong ligtas ngayong pandemya,” Go urged.
“Ni piso at ni isang minuto ay hindi dapat masayang dahil buhay ang kapalit nito. Magmalasakit tayo sa ating kapwa. Walang tigil dapat ang serbisyo lalo na sa panahon ngayon na nangangailangan ang mga Pilipino,” he stressed. (ai/mtvn)