‘Gov’t owes frontliners P2.2B in benefits’
The government now owes front-line health workers in 26 private hospitals at least P2.27 billion in unpaid benefits provided by law, according to the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP).
The amount covers the health emergency allowance (HEA), One COVID-19 allowance (OCA), special risk allowance (SRA) as well as meals, accommodation and transportation allowance (MAT) from July 2021 to June this year for 20,723 medical front-liners, or those assigned in COVID-19 wards.
This forms only a part of the unpaid COVID-19 benefits as these came only from reports of health-care workers at UPHUP’s 26 member hospitals nationwide.
The members include the Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Cebu Velez General Hospital, Makati Medical Center, Medical Center Manila, San Juan De Dios Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center Taguig and University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center.
The total pandemic allowances are also higher than the P1.9 billion in arrears reported by UPHUP in April this year, despite the July 5 order that sets aside P457 million for the delayed benefits of public and private health-care workers in 10 regions and another P802 million solely for private medical employees in two regions.
Based on the UPHUP data, a chunk of the claims amounted to at least P2.25 billion that have remained unpaid for two years.
The remaining benefits are: P17.8 million for the SRA and P6.57 million for the MAT.
In January last year, the Department of Health (DOH) replaced SRAs, stipulated in the Bayanihan 2 law, with OCA as it was deemed “more inclusive” by the health agency.
Under OCA, health workers assigned to areas identified as high risk are entitled to receive P9,000 a month, while those serving in moderate- and low- risk areas shall get P6,000 and P3,000, respectively.
This was later replaced by the HEA provided under Republic Act No. 11712 enacted in April last year.
Various groups of health-care workers had been pressing the government for the timely release of the COVID-19 allowances due them.
The DOH had said it plans to streamline the distribution of HEA to make it “more efficient.”
DOH Secretary Teodoro Herbosa made this statement in response to the commitment made by President Marcos in his second State of the Nation Address to continue the disbursement of pandemic benefits.
“We also promised that HEA shall be given … it’s in the budget. We’re just ironing out the efficiency on how to deliver them,” Herbosa said in the post-State of the Nation Address discussion on Wednesday with other Cabinet members.
The health chief also told reporters on Tuesday that he has discussed the matter with the Department of Budget and Management.
He noted that the previous process of disbursing the COVID-19 benefits was “slow” as it had to go through the regional health offices, known as the DOH’s Centers for Health Development, before it reached the concerned hospitals. In his proposed system, Herbosa said that the DOH may opt to just get the list of the recipients of HEA and send the payments directly to them through their ATMs, cutting red tape.