Palace to rush benefits of nurse who died due to COVID-19

Malacañang said Thursday that the nurse from Cainta, Rizal who died from COVID-19 without even receiving a centavo from her measly hazard pay was unacceptable, promising to rush the benefits rightful to the fallen health worker.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made the statement after it was reported that a nurse from the Cainta Municipal Hospital succumbed to COVID-19 last month but her family still hasn't received her benefits, including her hazard pay which was revealed to be at only P64 a day for 41 days.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque (PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Roque said that the low hazard pay and the fact that the nurse did not receive them were unacceptable.

"Hindi po (acceptable) kaya nga po pinapabilis natin yung P1 million na ayuda na dapat pong matanggap ng nurse na 'yan dahil sang-ayon po sa batas, entitled siya (This is unacceptable that's why we're expediting the process so the family can receive the P1 million because under the law she is entitled to it)," he said.

Roque was referring to the Bayanihan to Heal As One (Bayanihan 1) Act which provided benefits to medical frontliners who died or were severely ill due to COVID-19 while in the line of duty.

The Palace official said that despite the Bayanihan Act lapsing in June, the budget allocated for the death and sick benefits of medical frontliners are secure.

Roque, meanwhile, extended his condolences to the family of the fallen nurse and assured them that they will get what they deserve.

"I wish to condole with the family of the deceased nurse. Bagama't hindi po nakuha on time at ang ine-expect nilang hazard pay, sisiguraduhin ko po ngayon, personally, na makukuha iyong ayuda na ibinibigay po sa mga health frontliners na namatay po dahil sa COVID (Even though she didn't get the expected hazard pay on time, I am personally making sure that you will get the benefits rightful to health frontliners who died due to COVID-19)," he said.

Roque said that Malacanang will not allow the same kind of delay to happen again.

"Sisiguraduhin natin na ang ganitong delay ay hindi mangyayari. Unfortunately po, ito ay isang local hospital na pinatatakbo po ng isang lokal na pamahalaan (We will make sure that this kind of delay will not happen again. Unfortunately, this happened in a local hospital run by a local government unit (LGU)," he said.

"Sisiguraduhin na lang po siguro ng DoH na sa mga lokal na hospital, hindi na po mauulit ito (The Department of Health will make sure that this won't happen again in local hospitals)," he added.

Roque said that the hazard really varies on the capability of the LGU to pay P500 per day as determined by an administrative order (AO) issued by the Office of the President in March.

Roque said they will conduct a survey to find out how many hospitals are able to comply with the order.

The Palace official said they are not holding Cainta Mayor Kit Nieto accountable for the low hazard pay.

"Yung AO eh kinikilala rin na iba't-iba 'yung kakayahan ng mga lokal na pamahalaan na magbigay ng ganitong hazard pay (The AO recognizes that not all LGUs can pay this amount of hazard pay)," Roque said.

"Nagkataon po siguro na talagang hindi kaya na magbigay ng siyudad ng Cainta ng P500 (Maybe it just happened that Cainta cannot provide the P500 hazard pay)," he added.

Despite this, Roque said that they will "see within the framework of the law and within the framework of the budget of the DoH" in order to avoid similar incidents from happening in the future.

Based on a Facebook post of Joie Cruz, the daughter of the fallen nurse, her mother Tess was a health worker for around a decade at the Cainta Municipal Hospital before she died.

"A few months before my mom passed away, she's been telling me about how long she and her co-nurses had been waiting for their COVID hazard pay," she wrote in her post.

"She and her co-workers were expecting about PHP 30,000+ for their COVID hazard pay, based on the DoH announcement of PHP 500 per day for frontliners. My mom died before she even got her hazard pay," she added.

According to Cruz, she went to her mother's workplace to process some documents and to claim her benefits. She was told that the hazard pay was already available but instead of the expected at least P30,000, what she received was only around P7,000.

"Apparently, the COVID hazard pay of the nurses in their public hospital has been reduced to just PHP 150 per day and on top of it were deductions that were not even properly explained by the hospital administration," she said.

"In the end, it appears my mom was only given a freaking PHP 64.18 ($ 1.31) per day for her COVID hazard pay for 41 days," she added.

Based on Administrative Order (AO) No. 26 signed by Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea last March 23, national government agencies (NGAs), including state universities and colleges (SUCs) and government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), are authorized to grant COVID-19 hazard pay to personnel who physically report for work during the quarantine period in an amount not exceeding P500 per day.