Give health workers their due
Today, while some people have dropped their guard—taking off their masks and face shields in public or failing to maintain a safe distance from others—more than 8,400 Filipinos have died since the pandemic began—and more than 430,000 have been infected by the coronavirus. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than our front-line health workers, who are regularly extolled as heroes, but who we have discovered, are not treated as such. Nurses are planning to stage a protest Friday at the Philippine Heart Center to call for the timely payment of salaries and benefits of government health workers, just a week after employees of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) staged a demonstration to call for the same. The Filipino Nurses United (FNU) says there has been no improvement in their situation in the past months, which is why they need to speak out. Since the start of the pandemic, various groups have expressed dismay about the treatment of health workers in both government and private hospitals. Besides being at risk for COVID-19, nurses and other health workers have reportedly complained of salary delays. The PGH health workers who protested last week said they have not received their hazard pay and special risk allowance (SRA) for the last six months. The Department of Health says the budget should come from the University of the Philippines PGH, but PGH officials say they have no savings to pay the allowances. Karen Faurillo of the All UP Workers Union says PGH was already in dire need of funds before the pandemic, and it was disappointing to see that the national government was passing the responsibility on to the hospital.