By Charissa Luci-Atienza
Amid the health crisis the Philippines is facing, Bayan Muna partylist lawmakers filed on Tuesday a bill seeking to set the minimum salary for nurses at P30,000 and P750 per day for other health workers while prohibiting all forms of contractualization and fixed term employment.
Bayan Muna Rep. Ferdinand Gaite, Carlos Zarate, and Eufemia Cullamat filed the Magna Carta for Private Health Workers or House Bill 5184, which provides for the rights welfare and benefits of private health workers to encourage them to stay in the country.
“Budget cuts and long-time government neglect have resulted to and aggravated the public health crisis. And at the same time, Filipino health workers themselves, who are the frontliners of our health system, also face a crisis,” Gaite said in filing the bill.
“This crisis is the crisis of being overworked, underpaid, and of being deprived of job security and union rights. The salaries of most health workers are way below the daily minimum cost of living pegged at P1,205 per day or P36,150 per month for a family of six. Marami rin ang kontraktwal sa kanila (Many of them are contractuals),” he laments.
Under HB 5184, wages shall not be lower than P30,000.00 entry salary for nurses and P750 per day for other health workers. Private health workers shall also be entitled to full subsistence allowance of three meals; uniform allowance equivalent to five sets of uniform per employee/year; monthly P500 laundry allowance, and remote assignment allowance equivalent to 100 percent of their basic pay.
“This proposed act seeks to uplift the standard of living of our health professionals by setting a minimum salary, prohibition of contractualization, and setting of reasonable work load and prohibition of understaffing, among other things,” Gaite said.
Zarate said the bill would help address the yearly exodus of 19,000 nurses abroad.
“Not surprisingly, more and more nurses and health workers are leaving the country to seek better paying jobs abroad, or seek other work not related to patient care. While the country supplies nurses and doctors to other countries, Filipino communities and health facilities face inadequate positions for permanent nurses. Some hospital administrators admitted that some of their wards and services are not operational due to lack of health workers especially nurses,” he said.
The Bayan Muna lawmakers lament despite the fact that health workers in public and private facilities perform the same tasks and face the same risks in providing health services and saving the lives of Filipino patients, disparities exist with regards to wages, salaries, benefits, and others.
They noted that while a Nurse 1 in a public hospital earns P20,754 per month, their counterpart in a private hospital earns as low as P6,000 or P9,000 per month, which is even less than the P537 per day minimum wage in the National Capital Region or P11,814 per month.
“Health workers in the private health facilities are not covered by the Republic Act No. 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers enacted in 1992, hence do not receive benefits like hazard pay, subsistence allowance, laundry allowance, and longevity pay, among others.
In the face of the public health crisis, there is a need to address the concerns of the Filipino health workers,” they said.
HB 5184 aims to reduce, if not eliminate the disparities between the health workers in the public and private sector under the principle of equality and non-discrimination, they said in pushing for the final passage of the bill.
Violators of the proposed Act shall be slapped with a P50,000 fine and six months to one-year imprisonment, or both at the discretion of the court.
If the offender is a public official, he or she shall face disqualification from office.
Under the bill, the Secretary of Labor shall submit annually the necessary budgetary estimates to implement the provisions of this Act.
Budgetary estimates for the succeeding years should be reviewed and increased accordingly by the Secretary of Labor in consultation with associations/unions or organizations of private health workers, the bill provides.
The measure tasks the Secretary of Labor, after consultation with appropriate agencies of the government as well as professional and health workers’ organizations or unions, to formulate and prepare the necessary rules and regulations to implement the provisions of the proposed Act.