P1-billion benefits for health workers out next week | Inquirer News

P1-billion benefits for health workers out next week

/ 05:20 AM October 05, 2022
Healthcare workers attend to patients at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital in Manila. After more than two years, they will finally receive their special risk allowance. STORY: P1-billion benefits for health workers out next week

DELAYED | Healthcare workers attend to patients at the Manila COVID-19 Field Hospital in Manila. After more than two years, they will finally receive their special risk allowance. (File photo by RICHARD A. REYES / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DOH) will start distributing next week about P1 billion in COVID-19 benefits for healthcare workers due them in the first two years of the pandemic.

DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said on Tuesday that the Department of Budget (DBM) has approved the health agency’s request to release P1.04 billion for the payment of special risk allowances (SRA) of 55,211 eligible health-care workers.

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According to the DOH, SRA is a monthly allowance of not more than P5,000 for health-care workers who catered to or had “direct contact” with COVID-19 patients from Sept. 15, 2020, to June 30, 2021.

“[It] is currently being processed. We will be downloading [the funds] to our regional offices. So hopefully, next week, we can start disbursing these for our health-care workers,” she said at a press briefing.

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However, the DOH has yet to get funding from the DBM for the health emergency allowance (HEA) worth P11.5 billion for services rendered from January to June this year, she noted.

Also on Tuesday, health workers’ unions from private and public hospitals mounted a protest in front of the DOH headquarters to demand the release of the overdue COVID-19 benefits, namely the SRA, HEA and the One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA).

Under OCA, health-care workers are entitled to receive monthly compensation depending on the risk exposure of their assignments: P3,000 for low-risk areas; P6,000 for moderate-risk areas and P9,000 for high-risk areas.

This was, however, replaced by HEA with the passage of Republic Act No. 11712 in April this year. Starting July 1, health-care workers, regardless of employment status, should be granted HEA until the state of calamity due to COVID-19 is lifted.

“Because of this law for HEA, we have to pay them retroactively from June 2021 to December 2021. But we don’t have funds for it,” Vergeire noted.

Around P64 billion is needed to fund the retroactive payment of HEA for the eligible health-care workers, she said.

According to Dennis Memoracion, union president at The Medical City, some of their colleagues have never received their share of COVID-19 benefits. Health-care workers at Manila Doctors Hospital, meanwhile, had only received a month’s worth of their OCA, said the hospital’s union president Ronald Millano.

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TAGS: COVID-19 pandemic, Department of Budget and Management, Department of Health, health workers' benefits, Maria Rosario Vergeire
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