Gov’t still owes 20,000 healthcare workers P1.94 billion in backpay
MANILA, Philippines — About 20,000 healthcare workers who rendered duty in private hospitals during the pandemic have yet to receive their COVID-19 allowances amounting to P1.94 billion.
Data from the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP) showed that these healthcare workers did not get their mandated pandemic benefits and allowances as far back as 19 months, or from October 2021 onwards.
According to UPHUP, the government has incurred a total of P1,840,742,500 in arrears for the special risk allowance (SRA); one COVID-19 allowance (OCA); health emergency allowance (HEA); and meals, accommodation, and transportation (MAT) benefits for 20,304 health-care workers.
The back payments are broken down as follows: P6.7 million for MAT; P16.8 million for SRA; P985.6 million for OCA and P737.5 million for HEA.
It covers medical workers employed in 23 private hospitals in Metro Manila and the provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Cebu, and Davao del Sur.
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During the UPHUP’s “State of the Health Workers” Forum on April 14, the Department of Health (DOH) bared its plans to amend its Joint Administrative Order 2022-0001 with the Department of Budget and Management to fast-track the release of COVID-19 benefits by tapping authorized government depository banks for the direct payment to eligible health-care workers.
The DOH wants all of its Centers for Health Development in every region to have the option to send funds to the bank accounts of recipients.
Private and public healthcare workers have been pressing the government to release their delayed COVID-19 benefits.
But the DOH had cited insufficient funding for the continued delay in the payment of the pandemic benefits.
Citing DOH figures as of April 5, UPHUP noted that P26.9 billion, or just around 64 percent of the total P41.9 billion allocated under the 2023 General Appropriations Act, had been disbursed by the government.
In September last year, DOH officer in charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that around P64 billion was needed to fund the retroactive payments of HEA.
Under the OCA, healthcare 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 later replaced by HEA with the passage in April last year of Republic Act No. 11712, which grants benefits to healthcare workers.
Private healthcare workers had also called for the institutionalization of hazard pay as employees assigned to the emergency rooms and intensive care units in some hospitals receive a measly P100 to P300 a month.