Recto: Help prevent 'mass retrenchment' in DOH
MANILA, Philippines – Thousands of Department of Health (DOH) workers – nurses, doctors, and dentists – could face "endo" (end of contract) by the end of the year and will be in need of help.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto urged his fellow senators to intervene, as the DOH's proposed 2017 budget will lead to a "drastic" downsizing of health personnel under the department's Rural Health Practice Program, and will result in a decrease from the current 21,118 personnel to 18,825.
He urged other senators to "explore many options" to save these health workers "or at least cushion the effects of what amounts to be a mass retrenchment."
Without congressional action, the payroll ceiling given to the health department for 2017 won't be able to accommodate the program's current personnel as the DOH has to fund the second round salary increases for regular personnel under the Salary Standardization Law IV.
The health department pays for the salaries of these personnel hired under the Rural Health Practice Program to augment health workers in rural areas.
For 2017, the Rural Health Practice Program has a proposed budget of P7.03 billion ($143.24 million)*.
|PROGRAM||2016||2017 (as proposed)|
|Doctors to the Barrios Program||946 physicians||435 physicians|
|Nurse Deployment Program||15,727 nurses||9,349 nurses|
|DOH-paid dentists||324 dentists||243 dentists|
The number of medical technologists and midwives will stay at 308 and 3,100, respectively.
Better public health system?
In a statement on Saturday, November 12, Recto said he is working closely with DOH to minimize the displacement "which was something that was merely imposed on the DOH."
First, Recto said the Senate can infuse funds in the health department. For starters, he said around P2 billion will be needed to keep the 6,378 affected nurses.
"We can also insert a provision in the national budget [that] would state that the affected personnel should have first priority in being absorbed by other or new programs of the Rural Health Practice Program," the senator explained.
DOH is set to hire 2,587 Universal Health Coverage (UHC) Implementers and 2,803 Public Health Associates (PHAs).
UHC Implementers can be licensed health workers who will receive a monthly salary of P26,000 ($529.75), or a doctor with a monthly take-home pay of P56,000 ($1,140.99).
PHAs, on the other hand, are nurses or nursing associates who will be paid P19,000 ($387.12) a month.
"The displaced personnel should be accommodated in the above programs," Recto said. "And their pay should be augmented by local counterpart. Kung hindi lahat ma-absorb (If not all can be absorbed), then Congress should fund the deficit.”
The Senate also has the option to insert a "firewall" provision that will exempt "poor, distant towns" from losing their health workers.
According to Recto, "we can insist that the status quo be maintained for 3rd class to 6th class towns."
The proposed cut in the number of health workers comes just as the Philippines is looking to improve its public health system under the Duterte administration.
Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial even went to Cuba in August to study the Latin American country's successes in public health. (READ: What PH can learn from Cuba's health services)
There, Ubial learned that the Philippines needs 35,000 more doctors if it is to adopt the Cuban model in health human resource. – Rappler.com
*US $1 = P49.08