Health workers in the Philippines have decried alleged government inaction on the delay in the release of their salaries and other benefits during the pandemic.
Leaders of the group Filipino Nurses United said they will be filing a formal complaint before the court against agencies that refused to comply with the law provisions of the law.
The group claimed that the government failed to implement mandated fees for health workers, including hazard and special risk allowances.
Maristela Abenojar, president of the group, said the delay in the release of salaries and benefits “have already caused much distraught and restlessness” among health workers.
She said about 30,000 healthcare workers across the country have yet to receive several months worth of salaries and benefits.
Karen Faurillo of the All UP Workers Union at the government-run Philippine General Hospital claimed that they haven’t received their special risk allowance and hazard pay for months.
She said the government released a guideline on the hazard pay that “is deceptive and had caused too much confusion.”
In March, the government issues Administrative Order No. 26 that entitles healthcare workers to an addition Php3,000 (US$62) hazard pay for every month of duty during the pandemic.
Another administrative order in April provided healthcare professionals a “special risk allowance” as the government tried to entice medical workers to join the government’s fight against the pandemic.
Faurillo, however, claimed that the government passed the burden of looking for funds to hospitals instead of releasing the allotted government budget.
She said the Philippine General Hospital already has a deficit of Php49 million, about US$1 million, for the benefits of its healthcare workers.
The hospital, a COVID-19 referral center, requested the funds but was turned down by the Department of Budget and Management.
Robert Mendoza of the Alliance of Health Workers said that even the “performance-based bonus for the year 2018 and 2019” of healthcare workers in public health facilities “were not yet released.”
Albert Pascual, secretary general of the Health Alliance for Democracy, said the situation of the country’s healthcare workers “reflects the government’s misplaced priorities.”
“Instead of giving more attention to our healthcare system and empowering COVID-19 frontline workers, the government chose to give more funds to infrastructure projects and the military,” he said.
As of last month, the Philippines have more than 4,000 nurses infected with the new coronavirus disease.
Abenojar appealed to the government “to genuinely care for our nurses and other health workers who are at the forefront of taking care of our people’s health and safety.”
In a statement, the Health department said it is “taking the issue of delayed benefits very seriously,” adding that it conducts a thorough investigation “when matters like this come to our attention.”
The department said it has already “sub-allocated” about Php51.9 million to 17 government hospitals that requested for additional funding.
“Our people-centered health system does not only respond to the health welfare of the general public but also to the health workers who are with us in attaining this vision and battling this pandemic,” read the Health department statement.