MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Health (DOH) will be implementing its One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) program in 2022 to provide a “more inclusive” compensation system for healthcare workers on duty during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The previous benefits, known as the special risk allowance and active hazard duty pay for health workers, will be discontinued. “[The old benefits will be] replaced by a more inclusive and responsive OCA,” the DOH said in a statement on Thursday, January 20.
The OCA will be “equitably distributed” to health workers with consideration of their risk level classification. There are three: high risk, moderate risk, and low risk.
- High risk – P9,000 a month
- Moderate risk – P6,000 a month
- Low risk – P3,000 a month
The DOH’s Administrative Order No. 2022-0001 lists the guidelines on how to determine a worker’s risk level. Some high-risk workers include those directly involved in COVID-19 patient care, treatment, transport, swabbing, vaccination, and testing.
The health department has allocated P50 billion of its 2022 budget for the OCA. About P7.9 billion of this is “for later release,” and will be approved by the Department of Budget and Management once documentary requirements are fulfilled.
But considering the “expected high number of eligible health workers,” the DOH said it is working with the finance department to ensure that the remaining P42 billion, currently lodged as unprogrammed funds, will be prioritized so that the OCA may be continuously implemented.
“The Department, therefore, calls on all public and private health facilities to comply and cooperate to ensure that guidelines are properly reiterated to our HCWs to prevent any miscommunication and fast-track the implementation of the OCA,” the DOH said.
In 2021, benefits for healthcare workers were the subject of heated discussions as releases were delayed, and there were questions raised on who was qualified to receive them.
Advocates and lawmakers called on the health department to be more inclusive, as all health workers, whether they are directly treating COVID-19 patients or not, are all at risk of contracting COVID-19.
With the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, the national government shortened the isolation and quarantine periods of fully vaccinated health workers, in a bid to ensure adequate manpower in hospitals.
Meanwhile, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) slammed DOH AO-2022-0001, saying that through it the department “clearly abandons the health, safety, protection, and welfare of the health workers especially during this time of pandemic.”
“Placing a risk classification for health workers in the midst of their fight against the highly contagious COVID-19 is divisive and discriminating. The DOH and Duterte government further avoid providing adequate and equal risk benefits to all health workers amidst science disclosing that COVID-19 is airborne and can be transmitted through aerosol transmission,” AHW said in a statement on Saturday.
“AO-2022-0001 is unjust and an insult to all health workers. It differentiates the amount of risk pay each health worker will receive. It also devalued the role and sacrifices of the health workers. DOH should give adequate and equitable compensation to all health workers in recognition of their dedication and commitment as they risk their lives serving the people,” the group added. – Rappler.com