Government nurses’ hope for a much-needed wage increase is one step closer to reality, after the Senate adopted one of Senator Panfilo M. Lacson’s proposed amendments to the P4.1-trillion national budget bill.
The Senate version of the national budget bill now includes a special provision proposed by Lacson—one of the vice chairpersons of the Senate contingent to the bicameral conference committee tackling the budget bill—to increase the salary grade of government nurses.
Under the new special provision, “Increasing the Salary Grade of Government Nurses,” the base pay of government nurses shall be Salary Grade 15 (P30,531 a month), in compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision (G.R. 215746).
“The implementation of the salary adjustment shall take effect when the decision of the Supreme Court had become final and executory, but not earlier than the start of Fiscal Year 2020,” the provision read.
Lacson had also specified that the amount needed to fund the implementation of the Supreme Court decision shall be sourced from appropriations for staffing modifications and upgrading of salaries.
During his interpellation of the Department of Health’s 2020 budget last Nov. 19, Lacson noted that P3.173 billion is needed for the salary upgrade of government nurses, so they can attain Salary Grade 15.
“We can introduce a special provision and source the P3 billion from the P12.469 billion under that particular item [Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund],” he said.
As the funds are already there under MPBF, government nurses need not wait for the passage of legislation or the availability of funds to be provided by the Department of Budget and Management, he added.
“They don’t have to wait six months or another year. By January once we enact the GAA for 2020, ang salary upgrade nila is taken care of,” Lacson noted.
Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, said that the long overdue proper compensation for government nurses is now within their reach as the salary hike they deserve will be implemented early next year.
“I also want to commend the Committee on Finance and our distinguished colleagues for taking measures that would allow us to implement the Supreme Court decision upholding the validity of Section 32 of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002, which provides that the ‘minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institutions shall not be lower than Salary Grade 15,’” Go said.
“This is a long overdue compensation denied to them. Hindi na natin sila paghihintayin pa…magkakaroon na sila ng increase sa kanilang sweldo…next year,” he added.
Go’s statement was part of his explanation of his vote during the third and final reading for the 2020 national budget.
With the Senate’s approval of the proposed budget for fiscal year 2020, P3.173 billion has been appropriated to upgrade the salaries of Nurse I and II positions.
In his speech, Go emphasized that “public health should be one of our priorities.”
“As Chairman of the Committee on Health, I commend this chamber for approving the additional P7 billion for the Human Resources for Health Deployment Program. This is to ensure the continued employment of our health workers in geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas and economically disadvantaged municipalities,” he said.
Go has also commended the Senate Finance Committee for the increase in the budget of PhilHealth, which will be of big help to progressively realize universal health care in the country and to ensure that all Filipinos are guaranteed equitable access to quality and affordable health care.
With sufficient funds for the health sector, Go urged DOH and PhilHealth to “ensure judicious and prudent use of public funds” as he expressed his trust and confidence that the government agencies involved will institute reforms to improve its efficiency in spending their funds.
Go also said that he will prioritize the passage of a new Salary Standardization Law which will provide for the increase in the current salaries of all government workers.
He filed in July Senate Bill 200 or the proposed “Act Modifying the Salary Schedule for Civilian Government Personnel” which seeks to increase the salaries of all government workers, including nurses and teachers.