Expanded benefits for health workers urged by de Lima

Published May 12, 2018, 2:04 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Senator Leila de Lima is seeking to provide additional benefits to public health workers, particularly the establishment of an emergency compensation for those who have suffered from work-related injuries and accidents.

Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/2 August 2016/Manila Bulletin)
Sen. Leila de Lima (PRIB Photo by Alex Nuevaespaña/ /Manila Bulletin File Photo)

De Lima filed Senate Bill (SB) No. 1793, or the proposed “Expanded Magna Carta of Public Health Workers Act of 2018,” which seeks to amend Republic Act (RA) No. 7305, also known as the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

This, she said, aims “to ensure that public health workers receive what they truly deserve in their job.”

“With the myriad challenges faced by our health workers and the expanse of hard work and sacrifice that they give, it is therefore imperative that reforms and regulations be made and adopted by amending and expanding R.A. No. 7305,” she said in filing her bill.

Under the measure, all health workers shall enjoy additional benefits under the so-called the Public Health Worker Emergency Compensation.

In the proposed emergency compensation, health workers shall be entitled to 100 percent of his/her monthly salary following unfortunate incidents – such as permanent total disability or death — that took place while they are performing their duties.

The emergency compensation package shall apply to those public health workers who are deployed in hospitals, sanitaria, rural health centers, infirmaries, barangay health stations, clinics and other health-related establishments.

It also covers public health workers who are assigned in difficult areas, strife-torn or embattled areas, distressed or isolated stations, prison camps, mental hospitals, radiation-exposed clinics, laboratories or disease-infested areas or in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency.

De Lima, in her bill, also pushed to hold heads of government-owned hospitals and other public health centers and facilities and local chief executives administratively liable if they willfully circumvent or evade the benefit provision for the public health workers.

Those who would “willfully” interfere and restrain a public health worker to exercise his/her rights, shall also punished by a fine of not less than P40,000 but not more than P80,000, imprisonment of not more than year or both at the discretion of the court.

In pushing for the approval of SB No. 1793, De Lima noted that health workers are “among the most underpaid professionals in the Philippines, which explains why majority of them are either tempted to shift careers or to leave the country for better career opportunities.”

Based on government figures, about 92, 277 nurses have fled the country since 2012, amounting to a total of 19,000 leaving the Philippines every year.

Moreover, the country is only producing 2,600 doctors a year, resulting to a ratio of one doctor to 33,000 Filipinos. This is far from the ideal 1 or 1.5 doctor for every 1,000 population recommended by the World Health Organization, De Lima said.

“With this alarming data, the Philippines is left with an unfortunate reality of having a grossly disproportionate and inadequate number of health workers in the country, thus resulting to an inadequate health care system,” De Lima stressed.

Last month, De Lima also filed Senate Resolution No. 716 calling for the convening of the Congressional Commission on Health to institute reforms in RA No. 7305 for its effective and fair implementation.