By CHARMAINE P. LIRIO AND GLAIZA MAY G. MUZONES
MANILA — Heavy rains on Thursday May 7 did not stop health workers from celebrating the National Day for Health Workers with a protest on the wet and almost flooded streets of Morayta.
With their umbrellas and white coats, public health workers protested for salary and benefits increase in their sector. They also condemned the privatization of public hospitals and the dire state of health services in the country.
“We nurses, doctors, and other health workers who have chosen to stay in the country amidst crisis, poverty, sickness and corruption decry the willful neglect and disregard of the Arroyo government of the health workers and Filipino peoples’ plight,” the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said in a statement.
Led by AHW, the alliance of public health workers’ organizations, the protesters held a motorcade from the Lung Center of the Philippines and intended to have their program in Mendiola when they were blocked by the police.
Against privatization, corporatization
The health workers also expressed opposition to the government’s plan to privatize health services through House Bill (HB) 3287.
“Instead of ensuring the right to people’s health, the Department of Health revenue enhancement programs are giving heyday to private entities while making poor patients pay for every piece of cotton used,” AHW said.
HB 3287 was filed by by Rep. Roque Ablan, Jr. as part of Arroyo’s emergency resiliency package early this year. The bill seeks to corporatize public hospitals in the country.
Aside from this, some public hospitals now have Revenue Enhancement Programs (REP).
According to Remi Ysmael, President of Tondo Medical Center Employees Association, their hospital implements REP by requiring patients to pay for services that were previously offered for free.
Dr. Geneve Rivera, Secretary General of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), said the government is deceiving public health workers through Joint Resolution 24.
”Tumaas ang ating sahod, binawasan naman ang ating benepisyo at papalittin pa nito ang mga matatanggap na kakarampot ng ating mga manggagawang pangkalusugan sa mga pribado at pampublikong ospital,” she said. (“Our salaries increased but our benefits were reduced, this will further lessen the already meager income of our health workers in public and private hospitals.”)
Joint Resolution No. 24 legalizes the abolition of economic and non-economic benefits gained through the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers or Republic Act 7305 of 1999.
RA 7305 includes in its provision the benefits and incentives of health workers such as subsistence allowance, hazard pay, and one-grade increase for compulsory retirees.
Under the HJR 24, Salary Grades 1 to 9 employees will receive a 30.1 percent increase in wage, which will be divided in four years as compared with the 100-142 percent increase of those in higher positions.