Solon slams DOH for delayed release of health care workers' allowances

Camarines Sur 2nd district Rep. Luis “LRay” Villafuerte is furious at the Department of Health (DOH) for allegedly bungling the distribution of allowance to health care workers (HCWs) pursuant to Republic Act 11712 or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act.

Medical frontliners (File photo)

“It is awful to learn that our health officials have allegedly messed up the paperwork needed for the swift release under RA 11712 of additional allowances and other benefits for our medical frontliners at continuous risk of Covid-19, at this time when President Marcos had just praised our nurses as ‘my his) heroes’ and assured HCWs of his government’s full support for measures to equalize their pay, polish up nursing education and upgrade their career prospects,” Villafuerte said on Saturday, Sept. 3.

The Department of Budget and Management issued a statement on Thursday, Sept. 1, detailing the circumstances of the HCWs’ allowance delay.

“On May 26, they requested again for the release of P63 billion. On June 8, DBM sent them a response letter requesting them to address the deficiencies on the documentary requirements they submitted. Essentially, we requested them to substantiate their request by sending us the budget breakdown, segregation, actual names of claimants, and other relevant documents for us to clearly determine the universe of eligible beneficiaries. Subsequent meetings were held between the departments relative to the data requirement until the request was finally returned by DBM, on June 29, reiterating the required data from the DOH,” the DBM said in its statement on Sept. 1.

“DOH replied to us on July 15, but they were only able to address and substantiate documents that are related to unpaid COVID-19 sickness and death claims for FY 2020 and 2021 worth P570 million, which enabled us to release the same amount in August,” the budget agency concluded, adding that if the DOH could rectify the deficiencies, they would release the funds.

Villafuerte took to task the health executives for mishandling the required documentation.

“Instead of putting off the required documentation, as claimed by the DBM leadership, for the release of additional economic benefits for our nurses and allied HCWs, our health officials should be riveted on wrapping up such budgetary paperwork so our medical frontrunners can at last get such extra pay due them under the new law that was enacted earlier this year precisely in recognition of the excellent job that they have been doing to save lives since the onset of the pandemic,” Villafuerte continued.

“The new law was written by the 18th Congress exactly to prevent a repeat of last year’s incident in which many of our HCWs had complained about not getting on time the HEA due them for their invaluable services in caring for Covid-infected Filipinos—even at great risk to their own lives—since the pandemic broke out in early 2020,” he added.

Under the measure, HCWs and non-HCW frontliners operating in low, medium, and high-risk areas are eligible to receive P3,000; P6,000; and P9,000, respectively, on a monthly basis from the DOH.