For public health workers, serving the Filipino people should always be the government’s priority.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Dante Perez, an occupational therapist working at the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) for 16 years, said being a health worker for a government hospital is about serving the Filipino people. But this will not be the case anymore, he said, if privatization of government hospitals pushes through.
Not only that, Perez added, they too are on the brink of losing their jobs. He said the Department of Health (DOH) admitted that their tenure is in the hands of the company that will take over the new POC. He said they were told by the DOH that they cannot do anything if the new management will lay-off some of its health workers and hospital employees.
This is the fate awaiting health workers, Perez said. They have working for almost 24 hours servicing poor patients and even spend their own money but the government does not care about them.
To voice out their sentiments Perez, along with hundreds of health workers, nurses, doctors and community health workers held a symbolic protest run along Espana Ave., wearing sun visors made of paper bearing calls “No to privatization of public hospitals” on national health workers’ day, last Tuesday, May 7. Union members from different government hospitals joined the run. Union members of private hospital Manila Doctor’s Hospital also joined the run to express their support.
Health workers’ day mandated by Republic Act No. 10069 is celebrated every May 7th of the year to give recognition to the role and contribution of health workers in providing health services to the people. The RA also aims to “promote the health workers’ rights and welfare and enhance their sense of worth and dignity.”
However, according to Jossel Ebesate, president of the Alliance of Health Workers, health workers under the Aquino administration is being taken for granted. He said health workers still continue to suffer from low wages; nurses are hired as contractuals; the population ratio per health worker increases; benefits are cut and they have to work overtime.
“But even if this is the case, health workers are still willing to serve their patients because we know that it is our duty,” Ebesate said adding that unlike the government, health workers will not turn their backs on patients especially the poor – those who are in dire need of health services.
Health worker’s dedication
Perez relates that at the POC, no matter how dilapidated their facilities are, they still continue to serve their patients.
Perez added that POC management held a survey about the impending “modernization” of the POC. However, the survey question only is, “Are you in favor of the modernization of the POC?”
“That is deception. Who wouldn’t want the modernization of facilities? We want that too especially that our facilities are really dilapidated,” Perez said. He said that during the rainy season, the ceiling drips and now the ceiling already gave in. However, he said, the modernization of the POC should be carried out by the government and not by private investors whose main objective is to rake in profits.
The POC is the pilot project of the Aquino administration’s Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.
Perez added that materials for therapy are not even provided by the POC management. “We are forced to shell out money from our pockets so that they can still continue with their therapy.”
“Because as occupational therapists, we have to help them to do things like cooking so that they can cook on their own. But the management lacks materials. In order to help the patient, we just have to find ways to provide them with the materials they need because we cannot make them suffer just like that,” Perez said in a separate interview with Bulatlat.com.
He added that health workers at the POC are always trying to help the patients in any way they can like referring them to the social services department so that prices of laboratory tests or hospitalization will be reduced.
Meanwhile, the president of Nars ng Bayan Eleanor Nolasco said health workers’ real bosses are the people. “Our bosses are those who are in the communities and far flung areas, those who are not reached by the government’s health services. We should continue to serve them,” Nolasco said. She also stressed that while health workers are tirelessly performing their duties, the government should give importance to them and not take them for granted. Nolasco criticized the government’s RN Heals program.
“These nurses are professionals they should not be treated like assistants,” said Nolasco. She said many nurses under the RN Heals program are made as assistants to other nurses and are receiving an allowance of P10,000 ($250) a month, which is sometimes delayed. They too do not receive other benefits.
The Magna Carta for Health Workers states that a nurse and all public health workers should be receiving Salary Grade 24 plus allowances such as hazard allowance, subsistence allowance, longevity and laundry. However, the RN Heals program of the government deprives them of the said allowances.
For public health workers, serving the Filipino people should always be the government’s priority. That is why as they fight for their rights as health workers, they are also fighting for the rights of poor patients.
The groups vow to oppose the government’s plan of privatizing public hospitals as it will affect health workers and poor patients alike.
“The government’s effort to abolish our group is still there. But we will not be intimidated or give in to their tactics just so they can do what they want. We know what is right and we will fight not only for our own good but also for the people,” said Emma Manuel, president emeritus of the AHW.
Perez said that because their group is strongly opposing the privatization of the POC, the management has finally released their benefits, such as hazard and longevity pay, which, for a long time was put on hold by the DOH. “They are only doing this to pacify health workers. But what they gave us is our right and we deserve that. But what about patients? They are the ones who will be affected by privatization.”