Senator Risa Hontiveros has filed a resolution seeking an investigation into the “bottlenecks” that delay the release of the COVID-19 hazard pay and special risk allowance for healthcare workers.
In filing Senate Resolution No. 584 on Tuesday, December 1, Hontiveros said that 16,764 medical frontliners have not received their hazard pay amounting to P108.7 million because the Department of Health (DOH) said it lacks funds.
Hontiveros said in a statement on Thursday, December 3, that the P20.57 billion allotted under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2) for the health-related COVID-19 response, including compensation for healthcare workers, has already been released.
“The funds under [Bayanihan 2] were released last October. It is already December. Why are there 16,764 medical frontliners who haven’t been paid? Where is the bottleneck? The fight is still long especially for our health workers. We need to investigate so we can loosen the bottleneck and create policies that allow us to compensate them and their families fairly and immediately” Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Lower than expected hazard pay
An earlier report on Rappler detailed the ordeal that the family of a healthcare worker experienced.
The family of the late Maria Theresa Cruz, a nurse who died of COVID-19 in July, said they received only P7,265 of the P30,000 hazard pay that Cruz thought she would get, based on public statements of the DOH.
This amounts to only around P60 per day instead of the P500 daily hazard pay expected by Cruz and her family, as they understood from government pronouncements.
Cruz died without having received her hazard pay.
‘Glacial pace’ of release of frontliners’ benefits
Hontiveros’ resolution cited a report that Philippine General Hospital (PGH) workers and frontliners denounced the “glacial pace” of the release of long-awaited COVID-19 benefits.
It was estimated in the resolution that the amount needed to compensate PGH frontliners is around P49 million.
“We keep paying our health workers lip service. We cannot keep making promises and under-delivering. We cannot wait for the next health emergency. We have to make things better now. But should there be another crisis, we have to make sure this never happens to them again,” Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino.
“Healthcare workers are also victims of this economic crisis we are all experiencing. Yet they do their job despite the risks and save millions of lives everyday. Our minimum but important duty is to at least pay them right and on time,” Hontiveros added. – Rappler.com
Editor’s note: Jacob Reyes is a volunteer at Rappler. He is studying AB Communication at the Ateneo de Manila University.