By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA — “We are not immortals.”
This is what a group of Filipino health workers said today, Jan. 27, as they held a protest action to decry the government’s COVID-19 protocols for their ranks.
Earlier this year, the Department of Health released a circular shortening the isolation period for health workers that contracted the dreaded virus. In its Jan. 14 updated guidelines, DOH stipulates that the shortened isolation protocol is only applicable for asymptomatic health workers with COVID-19 close contact and are fully vaccinated. No RT-PCR test, too, will be accorded to them until their quarantine ends five days later.
Meanwhile, the isolation period for the fully vaccinated general public and health workers will be seven days from the onset of symptoms and ten days for the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated persons.
In a statement, Robert Mendoza, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers, said that the protocol has caused more confusion.
“We stand firm that asymptomatic but with COVID close contact health workers who underwent five days’ quarantine must get an RT PCR test before returning to work. The same goes with the asymptomatic COVID-19 positive, and those with mild symptoms COVID-19 positive health workers who underwent a seven days’ isolation,” Mendoza said.
At the maximum, he added that health workers are asking for a 14-day quarantine and isolation for both health workers and the general public to ensure their safety.
The AHW said health workers are human beings who need enough rest when they are tired and sick.
“Getting infected with COVID-19 is not easy. The five to 10 days isolation and quarantine period are not enough. The DOH must hire more permanent health workers to augment the lack of health personnel,” said the AHW.
Still no benefits
Health workers also clarified that they have yet to receive the benefits and allowances, such as the special risk, hazard pay, meal, and transportation to name a few. Instead, the AHW said the government is pushing for the so-called “One COVID-19 Allowance.”
Under this One COVID-19 Allowance, the health department will provide a monthly P9,000 (US$176) pay for health workers assigned to facilities classified as high risk, and P6,000 ($117.33) and P3,000 ($58.66) for those in moderate and low-risk work settings, respecitvely.
This, Benjamin Santos, secretary-general of AHW, said is unjust, discriminatory, and devalues their worth as frontliners fighting the pandemic. He added that the government has yet to release benefits stipulated in the Bayanihan Law 2.
The AHW said that the Philippine government has “outrightly disregarded our health, safety, protection, rights, and welfare by imposing inhumane and unjust policies.”