Some 40 percent of private hospital nurses have already resigned from their jobs as discontent grows over the non-payment of promised government benefits, including hazard pay for working with COVID-19 patients, the president of the Philippine Nurses Association said Sunday.
“We can't blame them if they do that because they can't feel appreciation and care from the government," said Melbert Reyes, president of the association.
Some health workers in private hospitals have not yet received their special risk allowances (SRA) or hazard pay that are due them by law, Reyes said on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, adding that if everyone got their benefits, nobody would complain.
The mass resignation of nurses, he added, would hurt the quality of health care in private hospitals taking care of COVID-19 patients.
Earlier, leaders of health workers' unions from UST Hospital, St. Luke’s Medical Center-QC, St. Luke’s Medical Center-BGC, Chinese General Hospital, Cardinal Santos, Delos Santos, Medical City, Infant Jesus, and Lourdes Hospitals met with Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee; Senators Risa Hontiveros and Francis Pangilinan; Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo; and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III regarding the unpaid benefits of health workers.
The three senators agreed to conduct a Senate probe on the issue on Aug. 18.
Last Friday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III committed to look into the concerns of the health workers.
The Department of Health (DOH) announced in June that the P9 billion fund for the new tranche of SRA for health workers has been released to the agency’s regional offices and hospitals ahead of the expiry of the Bayanihan 2 law on June 30.
Reyes urged the government to look into the delay in the release of these benefits.
"The budget was already released but why is there a delay? '' Reyes said, emphasizing that health workers are already tired due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has doubled their workload.
Reyes said health workers also want to get a booster shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, as many of them were inoculated with Sinovac, which has shown to wane in protection after six months.
In a separate interview on radio dzBB, Reyes said many workers have been complaining that they have yet to get their SRA from January 2021 to June 2021.
In frustration, some health workers have quit their jobs and opted to work for call centers for higher pay. The Private Hospitals Association Philippines (PHAP) said about 40 percent of the nurses have quit.Senator Joel Villanueva expressed dismay at the government's failure to pay out the hazard pay on time.
"We call on DOH to explain why our health care workers were not given their due benefits," he said.
Villanueva also called on the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that private sector health workers are protected and receive the benefits due them.
On the other hand, Gordon said there should be no distinction between government health care workers and those working in private hospitals.
"Give them what is due to them. It is in the law that they should have justified support, not cash assistance,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Under Republic Act. No. 11494 or the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, qualified medical workers will receive COVID-19 hazard pay and SRA.
Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Assistant Secretary Kim Robert de Leon said then they already released the funds to the DOH on
June 25, which provide for a monthly allowance of up to P5,000 for over 300,000 health workers both in private and public hospitals taking care of COVID-19 patients.