Health workers from different public hospitals in Metro Manila initiated a “noise barrage and die-in protest” in front of the Department of Health (DOH) gate on Thursday.
They expressed their anger and frustration regarding “the insincerity and negligence” of the DOH to health workers’ welfare by not releasing the funds for their meals, accommodation, and transportation benefits.
The benefits are stated under Republic Act 1494 or Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, in recognition of the health workers’ contribution in the mitigation of COVID-19 pandemic.
They also rattled empty pots and expressed that more delays in providing this benefit would cause them more misery and hunger.
A list of the DOH hospitals in NCR that are forced to return funds compliance to DOH Department Order No. 2020-0759 and the amounts they returned include:
• Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center – P56 million
• Tondo Medical Center – P20 million
• Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital -P59 million
• National Center for Mental Health – P62.4 million
• Philippine Orthopedic Center –P35 million
• National Children’s’ Hospital –P10 million
• Research Institute for Tropical Medicine – P57 million
The hospital managements of these hospitals wrote the DOH to request for the issuance of Sub-Allotment Advice (according to their respective amount) in view of the Memorandum released by the Office of the President.
The DOH, through Mylene M. Beltran, OIC-Assistant Secretary of Health Administrative and Financial Management Team, replied that, “the funds which you returned to this Department were already repurposed for COVID-19 related activities or responses.”
These included hiring of additional emergency HRH, vaccination program and compensation benefits of health workers who contracted with COVID-19 infection.”
“We are angry and frustrated with the DOH, the agency that is supposed to oversee the health workers’ welfare? Obviously, the DOH has no intention of giving our hard earned benefits. We had series of dialogues last April 2021, and they said that they will request funds from DBM,” said Cristy Donguines, President, Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center Employees Union-Alliance of Health Workers (JRRMMCEU-AHW).
“DOH also told us that the DBM did not respond to their letter. They callously kept their silence while we were hopping from DOH, DBM to Office of the President to demand our much deserve benefits,” she added.
“But because of our strong determination and collective efforts, the dialogue we had on June 2, 2021, with DBM and DOH led us know the truth. DOH was forced to reveal that they had utilized the funds intended for our meal, accommodation, and transportation benefit for other purposes,” Donguines said.
“Clearly, DOH deceived, deprived, and confused us,” she added.
Health workers were upset upon hearing the news that there is P18 billion in unused or unobligated funds under Bayanihan Law 2 and apparently, they said the DOH remain dumb in releasing the funds for their meals, accommodation, and transportation benefits, that are provided for under the same law.
“It is clear that the government has enough funds. But because we health workers are not their priority, they will not provide what is due for us,” said Ernesto Bulanadi, president, Tondo Medical Center Employees Association-Alliance of Health Workers (TMCEA-AHW).
“We are at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic and our health and lives and health of our families are at stake. We are working 12 hours per shift and overloaded with patients,” he added.
“Those benefits are token for the risk and sacrifices that we face every day but until now the DOH has not taken action regarding our welfare,” Bulanadi said.
“We urge the DOH to immediately release our benefit before the extension of Bayanihan Law 2 ends. We will not stop and never get tired of fighting until we get the living wage, just benefits, rights and welfare we deserve,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW national president.
“Lastly, we call on the attention of Secretary Duque, to shape up and defend the health workers’ rights and welfare,” he added.