Villanueva pushes higher SRA, hazard pay for health workers in 2022 budget

Published August 31, 2021, 9:03 AM

by Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Health workers deserve a raise in their special risk allowances (SRA) and hazard pay in the 2022 national budget, Senator Joel Villanueva said.

(Jansen Romero / File Photo / MANILA BULLETIN)

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, said there should be an increase in the funding for the SRA hazard pay so that health workers may also receive bigger amounts.

A bigger appropriation for the said benefits would also cover more health workers, he added, noting that current rules and fund limitations bar some contractual workers from getting additional compensation.

“The virus does not discriminate. Why does the government distinguish on who to pay or not?” Villanueva said in his statement Monday, August 30.

“Mas mataas na rate, malaking pondo, at mabilis na pagbibigay ng mga benepisyong pinagtatrabahuhan ng ating mga health workers (Higher rates, bigger funds and faster distribution of the benefits that our health workers have worked for),” he appealed.

Villanueva said with the current hazard pay not exceeding P3,000 per month, a public health worker only receives a maximum of P136 a day.

In the case of the SRA, to be received by those treating and directly exposed to COVID-19 patients, he said a monthly payout of the ceiling of P5,000 would only equate to P227 daily compensation.

He said “a 100-percent increase” in the SRA and the hazard pay can be the starting point of the discussion.

Villanueva said “the Senate, for sure, will collectively propose it once the supporting data are made available during the hearings for the 2022 national budget.”

In the meantime, he said the government should hold a “top-level dialogue” with health workers’ groups to settle issues about the payout of the benefits and prevent disruption of services.

“Our government has to resolve the delays in the payout of the SRA and the hazard pay,” he said.

“A walkout of health workers could be catastrophic for our teetering healthcare system,” he pointed out.

Health workers have been staging various protests and have threatened to resign from their jobs because of the delay in the release of their SRA, hazard pay and other benefits as mandated under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, or Bayanihan 2, which expired last June 30. Some P13.5 billion was allocated for this.

In their presentation to the Senate last August 18, Department of Health (DOH) officials said they have obligated nearly P15 billion in SRAs and other benefits for health care workers. But when senators pointed out that obligations do not equate to actual disbursements, one DOH official admitted that some P2.7 billion has yet to be distributed to health workers.

DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III also explained that the department cannot expand the coverage of the SRA, saying the Bayanihan law limited the provision to those directly treating and exposed to COVID-19 patients.
Senators, however, opined that the DOH can make a liberal interpretation of the law due to the prevailing health emergency. They also noted the existing Magna Carta for Health Workers to serve as legal basis for the grant of the benefits.
The DOH said last August 26, that the special release order for the P311- million SRAs had been downloaded to Centers of Health Development, for the benefit of 20,208 more health workers.