Senators seek COVID-19 benefits for hospital janitors, ‘other’ frontline health workers

Published October 14, 2021, 10:49 AM

by Hannah Torregoza 

Some senators have urged the Department of Health (DOH) to include hospital janitors and other frontline health workers to be included in the distribution of Special Risk Allowance (SRA) benefits.

Senator Panfilo Lacson said it is imperative that the DOH also consider the plight of other workers in the frontlines who are not necessarily a health worker by definition.

Quoting Social Watch Philippines, Lacson, during the Senate finance subcommittee’s hearing into the proposed budget of the DOH, said janitors, messengers, waste collectors in hospitals collecting medical wastes, and other are also considered frontliners and should receive the same benefits afforded to nurses and doctors.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, pushed for the grant of benefits to the 13,167 non-licensed, healthcare facilities-based workers, including orderlies, waste collectors, janitors and security personnel.

Though this will entail an additional amount of P474-million, Hontiveros insisted these 13,167 workers should automatically be included in the list of benefit recipients.

“I am really proposing to the good secretary to automatically include an additional P474-million for the 13,167 non-licensed healthcare facilities-based workers,” she said during the hearing.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III admitted to the panel that they are not included in the SRA because they are employed through an agency.

Nevertheless, the DOH chief acknowledged “it would be good to include them because of the risks that they face.”

Duque also welcomed Hontiveros’ proposal to include the benefits of these non-licensed workers in the DOH’s 2022 budget.

Hontiveros insisted this should be considered by the DOH since there was an agreement for a more liberal interpretation of the law pertaining to the grant of benefits to healthcare workers as discussed during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings.