Senator Imee R. Marcos, chairwoman of the Senate economic affairs committee, lambasted the Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly using a recovery report to cover up for the high coronavirus disease (COVID-19) infection rate among health care workers more than four months after lockdown was imposed.
Marcos, daughter of the late President Ferdinand E. Marcos, described the DOH report that more than 90 percent of the country’s health care workers have already recovered is ‘’nothing but cold comfort.’’
“It does not cure their predicament as a group with such a high rate of infection, compared to other countries,” she stressed.
“The total cases of infection in countries like Italy and the U.S. may be higher than ours, but the godawful rate of infection among our health care workers must be stopped,” Marcos added, citing as early as April, the World Health Organization (WHO) already marked the Philippines as an “outlier” because of the numerous cases of infection among its health care workers.
“The regional average, including China, was only two percent to three percent of total cases, while the Philippines scored 13 percent,” she said.
The lawmaker from Ilocos added that DOH’s own data in June placed the infection rate among health care workers at 15 percent of total cases.
Marcos, who was designated to the conference committee tasked to reconcile the Senate and House versions of the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act, said the bill could still accommodate President Duterte’s directive to grant an allowance of at least P10,000 to all healthcare workers.
“However, the Bayanihan 2’s limited period of effectivity and budget call for the urgent passage of other bills addressing the pleas of our healthcare workers who are at the brink of a physical and psychological meltdown,” Marcos said.
Marcos has filed Senate Bill 1644 to grant healthcare workers an automatic allowance of 10,000 pesos and hazard pay equivalent to 25 percent of their salaries during a pandemic or public health emergency.
Called the Healthcare Frontline Workers Welfare Act, the bill also provides free testing, free vaccination, and free access to health equipment not limited to surgical face masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).
“They will also be allowed mental health care leave with pay, besides providing their material needs,” Marcos said, adding that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) should aggressively promote the local production of PPEs.
Marcos has also filed the Anti-Coronavirus 2019 Discrimination Act, which punishes the verbal abuse and physical harassment of healthcare workers and extends the liability of an offending establishment to its officers.
She stressed that a permanent government-run medical reserve corps must also be created to back up healthcare frontliners in future health emergencies “even before they reach their breaking point.”