More work, less pay for government health workers


Main Story: Aquino gov’t withdraws legally mandated benefits of health workers

MANILA — John Paul Gubaton, 30, is the newly elected president of the employees union in the Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, a public hospital in Manila. An Administrative Aide 1, he is earning only P8,000 a month, a basic pay which, because he has worked in the hospital for nine years now, is being augmented by other benefits.

With the addition of hard-won benefits such as longevity pay, laundry allowance, subsistence allowance and hazard pay, his basic pay amounts to P12,000 a month. But since January this year, the Health department and the Budget department came out with an order affecting the release of their benefits, and effectively reducing Gubaton’s take-home pay.

If the benefits of health employees like him would continue to be denied, it would represent a huge cut from their earnings. After deducting, for example, from Gubaton’s basic pay his contributions to Philhealth, Pag-ibig (government housing), Government Service Insurance System, among others, including amortizations for his other debts, he would be left with only P2,000, a pitifully insufficient amount that could not even take him to work everyday until the next payday.

John Paul Gubaton, president of the employees union in the Jose Reyes Medical Center said that his salary is not enough to suffice for his family’s need. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil /

“Many of us here will be forced to excuse ourselves from work if we do not have money for transportation,” Gubaton said.

Melchor Dime, 41, has been working at Jose Reyes for 15 years now, also under housekeeping, a plantilla position in the public hospital. He earns the same as Gubaton but he has two children whereas Gubaton only has one.

He barely has anything left as take-home pay once the deductions were withheld along with his debt payments. Because he lives in Novaliches, he sometimes just bikes to work because his pocket is totally empty.

He told that pawning their ATMs is also “a tradition” for them.

But low wages and persistent indebtedness are not their only problems. Because there are fewer employees now at the hospital, their jobs became harder. For example, if before an employee in housekeeping was assigned to one floor, now they have to cover two floors and sometimes, even the operating rooms

They now bitterly joke about their situation by calling each other as Mr. Sakupin (literally Mr Cover-this-too), because if they cover, for example, the surgery department, they cover everything related to the department. Unlike in the past, they said, they now take on the “male and female surgery wards, orthopedics area, etc.”

Jobs which are performed before by two people are now being performed by only one. As such, they now have shorter breaks. At times, the health employees said, they could not eat anymore because they are always on call.

And then, on top of all these, their already low wages are being cut further with the diminution of their benefits. The health workers told, they are truly enraged at these cuts in their benefits. (

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