The head of the Order of Preachers, or Dominicans, in the Philippines has stopped the retrenchment of workers at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital in Manila on May 4.
In a statement, the Dominican Province of the Philippines clarified that the retrenchment of non-front-liner employees of the hospital would be reviewed by the UST Board of Trustees.
Father Napoleon Sipalay, OP, prior provincial of the religious order and chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, said the decision would be reviewed during the board meeting on May 20.
“In the midst of COVID-19, the University of Santo Tomas is one with the nation in its hope and prayer that we shall overcome this global pandemic,” said Giovanna Fontanilla, public affairs director of UST.
Donell John Siazon, president of the university’s workers union, said the statement of Father Sipalay is a “welcome development for the hospital workforce.”
“On behalf of the employees of the hospital, we wish to extend our appreciation to the UST Board of Trustees as well as Father Sipalay for this consideration, particularly during these difficult times,” he said.
Siazon said the suspension of the implementation of the retrenchment order will allow employees to concentrate “on performing our duties as front-liners as we still continue to battle the ongoing pandemic.”
He said, however, that the decision “has only been held in abeyance.” He called on his colleagues not to discount the possibility that hospital employees will be dismissed from their work.
Siazon said the union will remain strong and determined in protecting the security of tenure and the rights of workers.
Earlier, Dr. Marcellus Francis Ramirez, director of UST Hospital, said the institution was “constrained to implement manpower reduction measures” to minimize losses.
Ramirez said the overall hospital census “went significantly down” since the onset of the pandemic and the implementation of the “enhanced community quarantine.”
Since then, most of the patients admitted were COVID-19 patients. Ordinary and elective patients stayed away from hospitals for fear of infection.
Ramirez claimed that the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. owed the hospital at least US$3.5 million.
He said the cost brought about by contingency measures to address the demands of the pandemic “is taking a very serious toll on the hospital’s sustainability.”
He said the huge economic and financial impact brought about by the crisis healthcare institutions “is often overlooked.”
Ramirez said the retrenchment of workers is a “recognized valid and legal management measure” and “it remains as such even during the COVID-19 crisis.”
He added that it was implemented after a detailed review by the hospital’s lawyers.
“Painful decisions were needed to be made,” said the doctor, adding that he has no idea when hospital operations return to normal.
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