Senator Joel Villanueva on Friday slammed the Department of Health (DOH) for its reported unreasonable practice in its emergency hiring program amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying it is “worse than ‘endo'”.
The chairman of the Senate labor committee compared against the abusive practice of end-of-contract, or “endo”, the DOH’s “persistent failure” to augment the needed human resource for the country’s COVID-19 response.
“Masahol pa po sa “endo” ang ginagawa ng DOH sa ating mga health care heroes (What is the DOH is doing to our health care heroes is worse than endo),” Villanueva lamented, commenting on the tweet posted by Sorsogon Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
Escudero called out the DOH on Twitter Thursday for supposedly not compensating nine of 11 nurses it deployed by the agency to Sorsogon for its pandemic response,
According to the former senator, only two of the nurses were given their salaries that covered only two months despite working for five months.
“Only one is left with is now! No one got any benefits in violation of their contract. #SalamatDOH,” Escudero wrote.
In a statement, Villanueva recalled that he has been writing the DOH since May to improve the terms of its emergency hiring for healthcare workers so that the salary and benefits of healthcare workers are commensurate to the risks of having to face the highly-infectious disease.
“Hindi po makatarungan ito para sa ating mga healthcare workers na nagbubuwis ng kanilang buhay upang mangalaga sa mga may sakit, lalo na ang mga COVID-19 patients (This is not just for our health care workers who are risking their lives to treat the sick, especially COVID-19 patients). Let’s give what is due to our health workers,” he said.
Villanueva said that the DOH should offer better contract terms such as extending the duration to a year, since President Duterte placed the country under a State of Calamity due to the pandemic until September, 2021.
He said that the DOH still has an unobligated funds amounting to about P70 billion, or about 55 percent of its P158.7-billion allotment from its current and continuing appropriations as of October 9.
On top of this, he noted that the DOH received P13.5 billion from the Bayanihan 2 law to support its emergency hiring program for healthcare workers to beef up its pandemic response. Of the target 10,693 openings, the department hired 8,056 healthcare workers as of September.
The DOH said Friday that it will investigate Escudero’s complaint.
“If we want to keep our nurses at home, let’s give them a competitive package with salaries and benefits commensurate to the risks that come with their jobs. Our government should also ensure that they are paid on time. Otherwise, if we cannot do all of these, we might as well let them leave so they are able to provide for their families and not be prisoners in their own country,” Villanueva reiterated.