Vice President Leni Robredo on Sunday, August 29, said there is “no excuse” for government delay in releasing health workers’ special risk allowance (SRA), among other benefits, for battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Ngayon, walang excuse kung bakit hindi natin naasikaso dahil last year pa nga ‘yung pandemic. ‘Yung 2021 budget ginawa siya, panahon na ng pandemic. So ito, inaasahan na natin na kakailanganin natin ito dapat nakahanap na tayo ng paraan para ibigay ito (Now, there is no excuse why we haven’t taken care of this since the pandemic started last year. When the 2021 budget was made, it was already pandemic. So this, we’re expecting that we need this so we should have found how to provide for it),” she said during her weekly radio show.
Health workers have given the Department of Health (DOH) until Tuesday, August 31, to release their allowances which have been on hold for more than a year.
They are also planning to stage a mass protest starting Monday to air their grievances regarding the government’s failure to listen to them. The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), composed of health workers from both private and public hospitals, is demanding allowances, transportation, accommodation, and life insurance policies.
The vice president called on the government to release the SRA that was approved during the height of the pandemic last year, saying that it shouldn’t have come to the health workers having to stage mass protest for the delay to be addressed.
“Ibigay na ngayon. Kung ano pa iyong kailangan, pakinggan at hanapan pa ng paraan para hindi nangyayari ito (Whatever they need, listen and find ways so this will not happen),” she said.
Robredo said it’s sad to think of the state of the health workers at a time that puts their lives at risk.
“Kasi iyong nakakalungkot hindi naman bago iyong pandemic, di ba? One and half years na tayo dito. Tapos ngayon magsascramble tayo kung saan-saan maghahanap ng pambigay na dapat inasikaso na natin ito last year (It’s sad because the pandemic is not new, right? We’ve been here for one and a half years. Then now, we’re scrambling where to get the money that we’re supposed to have taken care of last year),” she added.
While there was nothing the government can do to take away the exhaustion and compensate the sacrifices of the country’s health workers, Robredo said that the SRA is one way to say that the government understands what the workers need and that it will do all it can to provide for it.
“Dapat nga hindi na natin hinintay na nagreklamo sila. Dapat pagpapakita ng ating appreciation, inasikaso na kaagad natin (We shouldn’t have waited for them to complain. As a show of our appreciation, we should’ve taken care of it immediately),” she said.
Despite the threat of mass protest, AHW cited that a skeleton workforce will remain in hospitals to ensure continued health services.
The Department of Health (DOH) has been under scrutiny for the past weeks after the Commission on Audit (COA) flagged it for P67.3 billion worth of “deficiencies” in its handling of COVID-19 funds.
Part of that P67.3 billion is P11.89 billion unobligated funds, which means that the agency has the funds but did not have programs to use it for. The funds were supposedly for the hazard pay and SRA of health workers.