“This is a reflection of government neglect and abandonment. One of the solutions is for the state to provide adequate budget to basic and essential health services.”
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA — Hundreds of health workers gathered today, May 6 not to celebrate Health Workers’ Day but to once again amplify their long-time demand: P16,000 ($340) monthly minimum wage for government workers and P750 ($16) monthly increase for private employees.
The health workers said the P500 increase ($10) implemented under the Salary Standardization Law IV this year was not enough for their families increasing needs.
The groups assembled in front of the Department of Health (DOH), marched to the nearby Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, then proceeded to Chino Roces (formerly Mendiola) Bridge where they held their program.
They challenged national candidates to heed their call for wage increase, safe working conditions, contractualization and privatization.
Robert Mendoza, Alliance of Health Workers president, pointed out that seven out of 10 patients die without seeking medical attention due of poverty and the spiking cost of social services. Meanwhile, health workers suffer long working hours, receive low salary, with many without security of tenure.
“This is a reflection of government neglect and abandonment. One of the solutions is for the state to provide adequate budget to basic and essential health services,” he said.
Violy Santiago, nurse at the Quirino Provincial Hospital in Quirino province complain that health workers are on duty 12 hours a day due to understaffing. Due to long working hours, they only work 15 days a month instead of 22 days. She said if they work for 22 days, they will not have their rest day. As a result, the management wanted to deduct their subsistence allowance.
Santiago asserted that Magna Carta of Public Health Workers provides that “the normal of work” of public health workers should not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week.
She also lamented that they do not receive hazard pay because of the devolution of health services to local government units. Due to devolution, salaries and benefits of government employees are dependent on the income classification of the municipality.
“We demand that government, whoever sits in power after this election, should properly implement what is in the Constitution and Magna Carta of Public Health Workers,” Santiago told Bulatlat.
Santiago and seven others came all the way from Quirino province to attend this year’s health workers day. She vows to support the health workers’ varying campaign from demanding salary increase to privatization of government hospitals.
Solidarity to Fabella Hospital
On this day, health workers also condemned the imminent closure of the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital. Unions expressed solidarity to the struggle of Fabella Hospital.
Sean Velchez, Philippine Orthopedic Center Employees Union president said the government has been “callous and heartless” for continuing privatizing government hospitals.
“What kind of government can bear to have mothers dying and giving birth in the streets as it shuts its own maternity hospital? What kind of government chooses to protect businessmen instead of the welfare of its citizens?” said Velchez.
He said what is happening in Fabella Hospital is not new under President Aquino’s administration. He cited the privatization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center which was foiled because of the collective action of groups of health workers, patients, and communities.
Philippine Heart Center Employees Association president Bonifacio Carmona, Jr. also slammed the government’s privatization policy saying that the government has been modernizing government hospitals for profits and not really for the people to have access to public health.
“Why can’t they, for once, think about improving our lives,” he said.
Ferdinand Gaite, president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), also joined the protest. In scathing statement, Gaite criticized President Aquino, saying “the bacteria that is killing the people is the one sitting in Malacañang.” The “bacteria” has also brought social service is in the “intensive care unit as it continues to privatize government hospitals.”
“Our society is plague with serious illnesses. It will continue to plague our people as long as policies are only for the interests of the foreign capitalists and big businessmen and not for the people.”
Emma Manuel, AHW president emeritus, said as long as policies of privatization, continue their struggle will continue. She urged health workers to unite and fight neoliberal policies which cause privatization, contractualization and lower wages.
“History will show that through our collective action, we stopped pending privatization of National Center for Mental Health and the POC. Together let us strengthen our ranks and organize for our right and the people’s right to health,” said Manuel.