Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’.Angara has prodded the Department of Health (DOH) to address the issue of contractualization within its ranks and hasten the regularization of the doctors and nurses working in its hospitals and other facilities.
The chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance called out the DOH about underspending in the amount of P24 billion, a portion of which pertains to funding under the now expired Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws.
During the Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearings on the various issues related to the DOH Friday, August 27, Angara noted that there around P6 billion of funds under B1 and B2 were unutilized, P1 billion of which has already reverted to the national treasury.
The reverted P1 billion, he said, was intended for the DOH’s human resource for health (HRH) program or the hiring of doctors and nurses and their deployment to areas where they are needed the most.
“May P1 billion na unobligated for HRH. Alam naman natin na umaangal ang ating nurses na (we know nurses are complaining) they are not getting their benefits. Umaangal sila na ang starting salaries nila (They are complaining that their starting salaries) are is lower than what is statutorily provided,” Angara said, pertaining to the Nursing Act of 2002.
He said that according to the nurses, they were hired as contractuals and were given salaries of P23,000, despite laws stating that their salary grade should be SG 15 or P33,000.
“I was told DOH has 13,700 contractuals outside of those in the local government units. Baka naman (Maybe) there is a way to speed up the filling of positions. Kasi ang (Because there is a) report that we are getting is nagaalisan na ang ating health professionals (health professionals are leaving),” Angara told the DOH.
The DOH has noted that there are 13,428 unfilled positions out of its total of 80,308.
Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said that while he supports the filling up of the vacant plantilla (payroll) positions right away, the DOH is prevented from doing so because of the qualification standards required, particularly the rules under the Civil Service Act.
Meanwhile, Angara also cited the urgent need for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to settle the amounts due to the private hospitals.
“The situation I’ve been hearing in the private hospitals is quite dire. Nursing services ate only 30 to 50 percent of their usual manpower. The arrears from PhilHealth are over a year in the 10s or 20s of billions. Anong plano ditto (what kind of a plan is this)? Are we happy with the current state of affairs to continue? Are we not moving towards improving the situation?” Angara said.
Stressing that health workers are the most critical frontliners during this pandemic, Angara reminded the DOH to provide them with “everything that they need, including all their benefits as provided under the law.”