DOH asks Congress: Narrow salary gap in health sector
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) wants Congress to amend Republic Act No. 7305, the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, to narrow the salary gap between health workers in government and those in private hospitals.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer in charge of the DOH, said any amendment to that law should include provisions on hazard pay and educational and housing assistance for private health workers as well.
Under RA 7305, enacted on March 26, 1992, medical workers in government are also entitled to other benefits such as subsistence, laundry and remote assignment allowances.
Vergeire also suggested that Congress pass another salary standardization law for the Deployment of Human Resources for Health program of the DOH — which allows the hiring of contractual workers to augment the department’s workforce around the country.
“We are seeking the support of the legislature for these two bills that we are proposing,” she said at a press briefing on Friday.
The disparity between the wages of government and private-sector medical workers is common knowledge to that community.
In an interview with the Inquirer, a gynecologist who works at a public hospital in Metro Manila said the basic pay alone for health workers in government is more than double.
The gynecologist, who asked not to be named, said a physician training for a chosen specialization at a private hospital gets a take home pay of about P25,000.
“That [rate] is for the whole residency training already. Their basic salary does not increase,” she said.
Graduates of medicine usually undergo residency training for a certain length of time, depending on the specialization.
In stark contrast, a resident doctor in government starts at Salary Grade 21, ranging from P62,449 to P69,385.
This is based on the 2020 Salary Standardization Law, of which the Third Tranche took effect this year.
“Private hospitals are really known for offering meager wages to their workers. That’s why I opted to work for a government hospital,” she said. Asked about the plan to raise the pay among private-sector health workers, the gynecologist said: “That’s well and good. But if private and governments have the same salaries, the government may end up losing its health workers.”
“Higher pay is the only reason why some doctors put up with the [heavy workload] in government hospitals. If we get the same salary in a private hospital, I’d leave the government,” she said.
As things are, many from private institutions have already “migrated” to government facilities, as Vergeire herself has observed, saying this was the employment “trend” in the medical community during the pandemic.
Jao Clumia, spokesperson for the Private Hospital Workers Alliance of the Philippines, welcomed the proposal of the DOH to make the Magna Carta more inclusive.
He said at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, where he is also the union president, all other health workers, apart from physicians and nurses, have a starting salary equivalent to the minimum wage.
In Metro Manila, that employee would get P570 a day, or a total of P17,100 a month, he said.
“This rate is the same across the board, except for nurses who are the only ones who get an additional P15,000 in various allowances and benefits just to entice them to stay,” Clumia told the Inquirer.
He also lamented the slow release of the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) and the Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) for private health workers.
Their counterparts in government have also experienced the same delay in trying to get those COVID-19 benefits.
But Vergeire said the DOH already submitted to the Department of Budget and Management this week the requirements for the release of P12.5 billion for health workers in government.
That amount would be for the OCA and HEA of about 1,672,660 health workers.