“We have been raising our demand since the president took office but there has been no action.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Health workers joined the public school teachers’ call for salary increase, as their shrinking wage can no longer keep up with the rising cost of living.
Together with government employees, public school teachers and workers, they will hold a simultaneous protest action on Nov. 20, at 12 noon to 1 p.m. to dramatize their call for salary increases.
“Prices of basic commodities and services have gone up several times during the four year administration of Aquino but not a single centavo was added to the health worker’s salary,” said Jossel Ebesate, chairman of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW).
Health workers from the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), We Nurse, Nurses for Change Movement and Community Medicine Development Foundation (COMMED) and different unions in public hospitals gathered in a press conference on Thursday, Nov. 13, to demand the Aquino administration to implement laws such as the Nursing Act of 2002 and the Magna Carta of Public Health workers. The Nursing Act provides a starting salary of P25,000 ($557) for nurses.
They called for a P16,000 ($356) national minimum wage for other health workers and P50,000 ($1,114) for doctors.
“All of us, nurses working in public and private health facilities incur the same expenses for food, transportation and basic needs,” Ebesate said. “We have been raising our demand since the president took office but there has been no action. Even the Nursing Act of 2002 was never implemented,” he said.
Public school teachers have joked about being members of “T3” or teachers whose take home pay is reduced to only P300 ($7) after loan payments and other deductions. For health workers, it’s “500 Club.”
“We have 500 Club or those who are living with only P500 ($11) as budget for a week due to many expenses like food for the family and education. How far can your P500 go, with the prices of basic commodities. Could we live on that?” said Benjie Santos, public relations officer of the All UP Workers Union (AUPWU) in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
He said the current P9,000 ($200) salary a month of a rank and file health worker – those who are bringing patients to their rooms, giving assistance to the professional health workers like nurses and the patients – in reality, is never enough to feed their families.
He also lamented that benefits such as the Performance Based Bonus (PBB) are given and then suddenly withdrawn upon the whims of the government. “In 2012, we still received our PBB bonus. Last year, in 2013, we did not receive our PBB because allegedly, we did not achieve our target.”
He said that with their present working condition, being over worked and underpaid, it is only right that the government heed their demand.
Dr. Julie Caguiat, executive director of COMMED, said doctors too are suffering from low wages. She said there are doctors, particularly, municipal health officers who receive only P17,000 ($378). She said at the minimum, a doctor’s salary should be P50,000.
“Even though doctors are getting higher salaries than other health workers, it doesn’t mean that what they are receiving is enough for their families.
Caguiat said the root cause of health workers’ low salary is the devolution of health services, from the national government to the local government. She said class six municipalities or those classified as poor municipalities, cannot afford to give higher salaries to health workers. They (health workers) also suffer from being over worked as some municipalities only have one or two doctors to service thousands of patients.
“These doctors are on-call. They are not just working eight hours a day; they work even beyond that without overtime pay. But even then, because they have committed to serve the people even with the meager pay, they still continue to perform their sworn duty.”
Meanwhile, a group of misemployed nurses also supports the call for the salary increase of nurses so that those who are misemployed – meaning registered nurses who are employed in other jobs such as a business processing outsourcing — can work as nurses in government hospitals.
“If the Magna Carta for public health workers will be implemented, as well the Nursing Act of 2002, these nurses would definitely be more than willing to work and care for their fellow Filipinos,” Dundee Concepcion, president of the We Nurse Inc. said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
“It is just very deplorable to know that nurses work for as low as P4,000 ($89), they skip meals just to make both ends meet, when they get sick, they do not even see a doctor just to save money. Just imagine that, health workers cannot even take care of themselves,” Concepcion, a registered nurse, said during the press conference.
Ebesate said the Department of Budget and Management’s automatic reply to the state workers’ demand for an increase is that “there are no funds.”
“The problem is that they do not fund the law that states that health workers should be receiving P25,000 salary. It was in 2002 since the Nursing law was enacted but then the health workers are not receiving what the law provides,” said Ebesate.
Robert Mendoza, secretary general of AHW also said the Salary Standardization Law III (SSL III) states that a periodic review and adjustment of the salary of government employees must be done every three years. “However, the DBM does not do that,” said Mendoza.
Ebesate said it is about time that the government recognizes the heroic act of health workers because they are the ones taking care of the health of the Filipino people. “It is only right that the health workers are being taken good care of, too.”
Ebesate said if the government will remain deaf to their call, it may lead to a strike. “As of now we will continue our protest action to strengthen our ranks and if that is not enough, we will go on strike.”