By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Nursing attendant Joey Espanillo has been working at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) for 27 years now. But for that, he is receiving only P11,000 ($243) basic salary per month. Meanwhile, a nurse 1 at the country’s premiere kidney and transplant hospital gets P13,000 to P15,000 ($288 to $332) basic salary a month.
The NKTI is one of the first public hospitals to undergo “corporatization,” a process seen by organized public health workers as one where the hospital’s public service operation is steadily being reoriented toward making profit, first and foremost. The government through its health department calls it “modernization,” and the drive for profit as promoting the government hospital’s self-sufficiency so it could be weaned away from dependence on state budget. NKTI is now one of the most modern public hospitals in Metro Manila, boasting not only of advance facilities and services, but also of shiny clean appearance unlike the other dilapidated public hospitals.
But for Espanillo and the union of hospital employees, this improvement has not translated to good news to average Filipinos as it resulted to costlier health services and it has also meant greater difficulties for health workers in improving their wages and benefits.
Since 1997 the hospital union has tried to ink with the management a collective negotiation agreement (CNA), but it was only in Nov 2012 that they finally got one. After 16 long years without CNA, hospital workers who finally got covered by an agreement are restive once again because they find their CNA incentive this year as too “minimal.”
It further does not sit well with them that while they are being forced to make do with meager incentives, officials of 31 government-owned and controlled corporations, topped by Philhealth, have been told by the Commission on Audit to explain and return P2.3 billion ($51m) worth of fat allowances and bonuses.
Health workers in NKTI have been holding protest actions, beginning with a candle-lighting protest in front of the hospital last month, to demand their rightful CNA incentive.
According to law, CNA incentive is a benefit given to rank and file government employees “in recognition of joint efforts of labor and management to attain more efficient and viable operation.” It is provided also in Public Sector Labor Management Council Resolution No 002 series of 2003, in Administrative Order 135 series of 2005 and Executive Order No. 24 series of 2011.
Also, the union said the Department of Budget and Management through its circular No. 2013-4 issued Nov. 24 last year pegged the maximum amount of CNA Incentive at P25,000 ($553) per qualified employee.
The NKTI Employees’ Association – Alliance of Health Workers (NKTIEA – AHW) is protesting their management’s decision to give them only P5,000 ($111). The amount is just a fifth of the maximum incentive they stand to receive. And just a fifth also of what fellow health workers in other public hospitals have received in the same period.
The amount of the incentive as well as the operating budget and others were solely decided by the hospital management led by Dr. Jose Dante P. Dator, according to Espanillo, president of the employees’ union in NKTI. Union representatives said they are serving even more patients lately, meaning that in terms of income and savings from efficiency, the kidney hospital likely has much to draw from. “But the management just fixed the amount of the CNA incentive, without giving any explanation or without transparency over the hospital’s operating budget,” Espanillo said.
In a statement to the media, the NKTI employees’ union, through Espanillo, said: “We refused to be deceived. We do not believe that the NKTI do not have money for the health workers’ CNA incentive.”
Health workers from nearby Philippine Heart Center are also holding similar protest actions. For their part, they are protesting their unpaid CNA benefit – they said it has remained unpaid for the last seven years.