By INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA — Health workers continue to protest against the refusal of the Aquino government to release their hazard pay and other benefits. In a statement, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said health workers have been appealing to both the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the last months, but to no avail.
Jossel Ebesate, AHW president, said that as of the second week of July, more than 29,000 health workers deployed all over the country have not received their hazard pay. What made the situation worse, Ebesate said, is when the DOH issued its Department Memorandum No. 2012-0181 last June 25 stopping the issuance of hazard pay until DBM approves the use of the concerned agency’s savings as per the latter’s guidelines.
The AHW said that the memorandum was issued without passing through consultations with health workers.
“This is a violation of the Magna Carta of Health Workers (R.A. 7305) and the Joint Resolution No 4. Hazard pay is a recognition of the health workers’ nature of work, which exposes them to occupational hazards as stipulated in the said laws. Every day as health workers enter their respective hospitals, they are exposed to risks of various types. All hospitals are homes of hazardous, and even lethal pathogens that spread over the entire place. Even the patients themselves pose threats to health workers’ lives like the mental patients at the National Center for Mental Health,” Ebesate pointed out.
The health sector leader said health workers are exposed to hazardous workplaces, and the delay or nonpayment of their hazard benefits betrays the government’s indifference to their safety and well-being.
“We are at the forefront of saving people’s lives but our lives are at the constant threat of the hazards we are daily exposed to. Hazard pay is recognized by law through RA 7305, and just compensation, which the government continues to deny us . How can we continuously deliver the much needed health services to the people if we are denied our rights and benefits?”
The AHW also revealed that the government’s intent to scrap the Magna Carta benefits as verbalized by DBM representatives in some consultations and meetings is also a reason for members of the sector to continue pressing their demands.
The DOH Budget for 2012 increased by 30 percent from P32 billion ($762 million) in 2011 to P42 billion ($1 billion).
Last June 25, however, the DOH issued Memorandum Order No 2012-0181 ordering the immediate stop in the payment of hazard pay and augmentation for laundry and subsistence allowances due to supposed “budget shortages.”
The hazard pay is 25 percent of a health worker’s monthly salary or equivalent to P2,000 ($48) to P8,000 ($190). Based on DOH Memo 2012-0002, the subsistence allowance for health workers is P30 ($0.71) per working day, while laundry allowance is P130 ($3.09) per month. All have been removed with the implementation of the DOH Memorandum Order No. 2012-0181.
“This strengthens even more their resolve to protect their rights in all forms warranted at any given time. “We will stand for our rights and will not give up without a good fight,” Ebesate said.
Late last month, more than half of the entire workforce at the Gov. Celestino Gallares Memorial Regional Hospital (GCGMRH) in Tagbilaran went on strike against the withholding of their hazard pay. Earlier this July, health workers in Davao picketed the regional office of the DOH on the same issue.
According to reports, a total of 33,295 affected health workers in the country assigned with DOH, and other government agencies such as the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Social and Welfare Development (DSWD), and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) are affected by the memorandum order.