Senator questions suspension of health workers’ SRA; Duque vows to fix issue
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday flagged a memorandum issued by the Department of Health (DOH) suspending the granting of the special risk allowance (SRA) to public health workers.
During a Senate hearing, Hontiveros asked Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to revoke Department Memorandum No. 2020-0285.
“This was actually brought to my attention by a DOH nurse who is now COVID-positive. They have no SRA up to now because your office suspended it,” Hontiveros told Duque, speaking partly in Filipino. “This is an urgent query and I hope you can do something about it.”
“This memorandum came with the news that the Philippine government again bans medical workers and allied health professionals from leaving the country during the state of national emergency due to COVID-19. So they’re really all hands on deck here — and only here. And yet the special risk allowance was suspended,” she added.
Duque admitted not being aware of the reason behind the suspension of the SRA despite the memorandum bearing his office letterhead.
But he said: “I will certainly address this expeditiously, and it’s not clear to me why this was suspended by Usec Roger Tong-An.”
Hontiveros was puzzled by this.
“It has your letterhead – Office of the Secretary,” she said. “Yes, it was Usec Tong-An who signed it, but by the authority of the Secretary of Health is there. That’s why it was sent to you for urgent action on behalf of our frontliners, who should really a have a special risk allowance now that they are bearing additional risk even compared to their usual risk every day.”
Duque reiterated his commitment to “make an urgent call to address this.”
“Could your urgent call be to revoke the memorandum?” Hontinveros said. “Secretary, the nurse who brought this to my attention already has COVID-contracted from when she has been on duty taking care of us Filipinos in the middle of a pandemic. Could you please revoke this?”
Duque requested for an hour so he could act on the senator’s request.
Prior to the suspension of the hearing, Hontiveros asked him about the DOH memorandum.
Duque said he would report back to the Senate within 24 hours on the matter as he agreed that medical frontliners should still be given their special risk allowance.
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