MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte gave a 10-day ultimatum for the payment of the benefits of health workers following threats of mass resignation of various medical unions over the delayed release of their allowances and other incentives more than a year into the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Use whatever money there is. Pay the nurses what they are asking for – both those in government and those outside of government working as volunteers,” Duterte said in a taped address which aired on Saturday.
“If you don’t have money, spend everything you have there. I’m ordering you to use every money available there. I am giving you 10 days.”
He directed this to the Department of Health and the Department of Budget and Management to meet the deadline. But for Filipino Nurses United secretary-general Jocelyn Andamo, the planned mass protest remains. “Nothing has changed. There is still no positive action that we see until now from the Department of Health. They are just saying they will release the benefits but everything still hangs. We have not cancelled our plans,” Andamo said.
On Friday, the President said the government will “do our best” to release the incentives due to health workers and protect them as the country battles record-high COVID-19 cases.
“Be assured that we in government will do our best to protect and incentivize you for your hard work. We will always be by your side, ready to help in any way we can. I thank all the Filipino frontliners for the sacrifices they have made since the beginning of this pandemic. We are truly grateful for your selflessness in caring for the sick during these challenging times,” Duterte said.
St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association president Jao Clumia earlier belied the claim of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III that allowances for meals, accommodation, transportation and life insurance were already released to health workers in private hospitals.
“Wala nga po kami niyan kahit pisong duling,” Clumia told ANC’s Headstart.
Andamo on Wednesday told the Senate that health workers treating COVID-19 patients in at least 16 hospitals have yet to receive their benefits. These included Metro Manila hospitals Chinese General Hospital, Delos Santos Medical Center, Metropolitan Medical Center, the Pasig City COVID Referral Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, San Lazaro Hospital, and St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City and Bonifacio Global City.
Duque insisted that only health care workers with direct contact with COVID-19 patients are entitled to special risk allowances under existing laws. But Commission on Audit chairman Michael Aguinaldo said the DOH should be liberal in paying SRAs and other benefits to hospital workers, especially since the DOH took part in drafting the guidelines, and it could have included all health care employees in the coverage.