Health workers stage noise barrage over recalled COVID-19 benefits

Published August 25, 2021, 7:19 PM

by Gabriela Baron

Health workers from Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) on Wednesday, Aug. 25, held a noise barrage in front of their hospital lobby to call for the release of their withheld coronavirus disease (COVID-19) benefits.

(Photo from AHW)

JRRMMC Employees Union-Alliance of Health Workers (JRRMMCEU-AHW) Vice President John Paul Gubaton challenged Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III to release the remaining 70 percent or the P39.2 million budget for health workers’ accommodation and transportation allowance for the period of September to December 2020.

“All this time, we have been deceived by DOH Secretary Duque. Certainly, there is enough budget, but when it comes to health workers’ safety, and protection, DOH always informs us that there’s no appropriated budget. As COA revealed its findings on DOH questionable and anomalous disbursement of the COVID-19 response funds, Sec. Duque simply cannot deny us the truth,” Gubaton lamented.

JRRMMC, a DOH-retained hospital, only received 30 percent of the funds intended for meals, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) allowance of its health workers covering the period of September to December 2020, as the remaining 70 percent of funds was withheld by the DOH.

The health workers demanded for the immediate release of 70 percent of the budget covering the period of September to December 2020 intended for MAT as well as the January to June 2021 MAT benefit to all health workers; release active hazard duty pay to all public health workers from January to June 2021; and release special risk allowance (SRA) to all health workers.

“Many from our ranks have died including our comrade, union officer and fellow health workers — Judynn Bonn Swerte and many more. The deadly virus and apparently COVID-19 infection is increasing. Our situation is getting worse every day. Clearly, the frontline health workers’ commitment and dedication waging this formidable battle against COVID-19 is incomparable,” JRRMMCEU-AHW President Cristy Donguines said.

On Aug. 11, the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged DOH of P67 billion “deficiencies” from the COVID-19 funds, including P11.9 billion unutilized funds for SRA and hazard pay allotted to health workers.