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Protesting nurses have basis for their grievances — solon

/ 01:10 PM August 18, 2021
nurses protest benefits

FILE PHOTO: About 200 nurses and public health workers in protective suits stage a “sit-down protest’’ outside the Department of Health building in Manila on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, the day the Bayanihan 2 stimulus spending law lapsed. The workers are demanding the release of their benefits, including a monthly P3,000 COVID-19 hazard pay. INQUIRER/RICHARD A. REYES

MANILA, Philippines — It would be hard to ask nurses and health workers not to stage protests or not to resign from their jobs amid the COVID-19 pandemic as they have a basis for their grievances, a lawmaker said on Wednesday.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Ang Probinsyano Rep. Alfred delos Santos said that union leaders and heads of nurses’ organizations told him during consultations that they have tried to pacify health workers amid threats to stage widespread protests.

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However, Delos Santos said he understands the reasons behind the outrage of nurses and other health workers.

“Nag-conduct po tayo ng several consultations kasama ang mga nurses, alam niyo po nakakahiya pong hingin sa kanila ‘yong, ‘o mga nurses ‘wag muna’ because sa totoo lang po marami po talaga silang valid reasons kung bakit gawin ‘to,” the lawmaker said during the forum.

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(We conducted several consultations with our nurses, you know it’s embarrassing to ask them to refrain from protesting because honestly, they really have a lot of valid reasons as to why they should speak and act that way.)

“Karamihan sa kanila ‘yong mga presidente ng unyon, presidente ng mga organisasyon ng mga nurses, lahat po sila sabi po nila sa akin ini-encourage namin ang aming mga kasamahan na ‘wag na munang mag-resign, sama-sama na muna tayo lalo na ngayong lumalala ang pandemya,” he added.

(Most of the people we’ve talked to are union presidents and organization leaders, all of them told me that they have encouraged their colleagues to set aside their resignation plans, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be worsening.)

Most of the nurses and health workers have felt abandoned as they are in the forefront of the fight against the pandemic but their concerns are not being addressed.

“Pero alam mo, ‘yong iba talaga maiintindihan mo ‘yong sentimyento nila na talagang kami na ‘yong naghirap, kami na ‘yong nagbuwis ng buhay, bakit po kami pa ‘yong hindi ninyo inaalagaan,” Delos Santos explained.

(But you know, you would really understand the sentiments of some as they feel that they are enduring a lot of hardships, putting their lives at risk, but they are not being taken care of.)

During the early part of the year, health workers were already calling for a resolution of their unpaid benefits like hazard pay, which were mandated under the Bayanihan laws including Republic Act No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover As One-Act.

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However, by June, the issue of unpaid benefits went unresolved.  Just this early August, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said some health workers from government hospitals, along with private hospitals have yet to receive their hazard pay.

The issue forced health workers to raise the possibility of mass resignations if the government will not grant their requests.

READ: Health workers demand unpaid benefits as Bayanihan 2 expires

READ: Quimbo: Probe DOH’s reported failure to pay health workers’ benefits under Bayanihan 2

Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Gen. Guillermo Eleazar who was also present at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum said that while the police force understands the sentiments of health workers, it would be better if they will not engage in mass gatherings to protect public health.

Currently, Metro Manila and other areas are still under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) status due to the uptick in COVID-19 cases brought by the more transmissible Delta variant.

“We are monitoring the situation and ako’y naniniwala na bago naman sila gumawa ng aksyon, it should be coordinated with us, and we discourage actually the mass gathering of all the sectors, alam naman po na ang ating health workers ang nangunguna at nanganganib,” Eleazar said.

(We are monitoring the situation and I personally believe that before they take any action, it should be coordinated with us, and we discourage the mass gathering of all the sectors, we all know that the health workers are really at the forefront of the fight and are at great risk.)

“Ako’y naniniwala na makakakuha rin po sila ng paraan para po ilabas ang kanilang mga hinaing through ways na hindi naman po mako-compromise ang ating protection, particular itong ating situation ngayon,” he added.

(I believe that they would find the proper avenue to air their grievances through a manner where public health would not be compromised.)

During a House panel hearing on the Commission on Audit (COA) report of the Department of Health (DOH) expenses, lawmakers asked why only 73 percent of the health workers have received benefits.

The questions come as DOH gets flak after the COA report showed various deficiencies and possible mismanagement of funds that were allocated for the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: Quimbo: Only 73% of healthcare workers received benefits, so who dropped the ball?

READ: COA finds DOH lacking in managing P67.32-B COVID funds

/MUF

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