Health workers’ groups push payment of benefits | Inquirer News
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Health workers’ groups push payment of benefits

/ 05:46 AM October 06, 2022
Health workers at the Philippine General Hospital take care of patients in this June 2021 photo

BUSY WARD | Health workers at the Philippine General Hospital take care of patients in this June 2021 photo.  (INQUIRER FILE PHOTO)

MANILA, Philippines — Health workers still struggling to claim unpaid benefits from the government urged the Marcos administration to hasten the release of their long-overdue incentives, namely the One COVID-19 allowance (OCA), health emergency allowance (HEA) and special risk allowance (SRA).

A nationwide survey of nurses, conducted by Filipino Nurses United (FNU) in August, showed that less than 50 percent of eligible nurses in public and private hospitals were able to claim their OCA for the month of January.

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FNU secretary general Jocelyn Andamo said that based on recent data they obtained from the Department of Health (DOH), only P2.2 billion of the P5.4-billion allocation for OCA has been disbursed as of the end of May.

“Only 35 to 40 percent of health workers have received the OCA, and that’s only for one month. Many have yet to receive the SRA, while the promised HEA still has no allocation from the government,” Andamo said.

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Many healthcare workers never received their share, according to Jao Clumia, president of St. Luke’s Medical Center Employees Association.Clumia said some health workers were forced to take out loans for their expenses, thinking they will receive their benefits.

“But nothing followed that one-month OCA benefit they received,” said Clumia, a clinical assistant at St. Luke’s.

On Tuesday, the DOH said it would start distributing next week P1.04 billion for the payment of SRA of more than 55,000 eligible health workers.

But Clumia and Andamo agreed that the government is making it too hard for health workers to claim these benefits. Clumia added: “For us, we hope the government will fix this first before watching the Grand Prix in Singapore.”

SRA is an allowance given in the amount not exceeding P5,000 per month to all public and private health workers directly catering to or in contact with COVID-19 patients from Sept. 15, 2020, to June 30, 2021.

OCA, on the other hand, was created under DOH’s Special Provision No. 14 of the 2022 General Appropriations Act to offer COVID-19 benefits to health-care and non-health-care workers depending on their risk exposure. In July, OCA was replaced by HEA, which will be granted to health-care workers until the state of calamity due to COVID-19 is lifted.

“[DOH office in charge Maria Rosario] Vergeire always tells us that the benefits will arrive next week, but weeks will pass without it happening. How much longer shall we wait? That P1 billion should be felt right away by our nurses and other healthcare workers,” she said.

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According to the DOH, the P1.04 billion released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday will cover the payment for the SRA of 55,211 eligible beneficiaries for the period of September 2020 to June 2021.

The health department said it would also process the P11.5 billion released by DBM for the payment of 1,617,660 HEA and OCA benefits for the period of January to June 2022.

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TAGS: Department of Budget and Management, Department of Health, Filipino Nurses United, health workers' benefits
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