A handful of health workers at the National Kidney and Transplant Institute (NKTI) staged a silent protest on Saturday, July 25, to ask for better protection and treatment in the fight against the coronavirus.
Outside the NKTI compound, 6 members of the NKTI Employees Association-Alliance of Health Workers (NKTIEA-AHW) held pieces of paper with their pleas and demands to authorities.
In a statement, the NKTIEA-AHW said they were “deeply concerned about the appalling health and working conditions of their fellow health workers in NKTI.”
The group noted that as of July 19, 174 NKTI health workers have contracted COVID-19. They attributed the increase of infections among fellow health workers to “gross negligence by the management, DOH and government authorities to ensure our protection and safety in the midst of our fight against this virulent disease.”
They argued that prevention and control measures have not been properly observed. “Quarantine protocols are not strictly implemented; there is no free swab test for all frontline hospital workers regularly. Worse, health workers are required to pay for their swab tests and [are] charged to their PhilHealth,” added NKTIEA-AHW.
They also highlighted the problem of understaffing, which they said was “getting worse now because many have resigned,” said Edwin Pacheco, president of NKTIEA-AHW.
The group said that from March to June 2020, 65 workers have left their posts, while 8 have retired from service. The reasons of those who resigned ranged from heeding the requests of relatives for fear of getting infected, to leaving the country to work overseas.
“Many of our fellow health workers are experiencing over fatigue due to excessive long hours of work, demoralization, psychological distress, stigma and fear of becoming infected,” added Pacheco.
The group also stressed that contractual health workers “don’t have hazard pay benefits, no overtime pay, and no sick leave pay benefits,” and that NKTI management “decided to just give them compensatory day-offs” instead of overtime pay. “And once you are a contractual, if you don’t work, you have no pay.”
NKTIEA-AHW likewise lamented that benefits under various issuances like the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act are “not given fairly to all health workers during [this] pandemic.”
The group asked for additional benefits and free mandatory, regular coronavirus tests, among other demands from NKTI management and health authorities.
NKTIEA-AHW requested that their performance-based bonuses for 2018 and 2019 be released immediately, and that all health workers receive P500 per day as COVID-19 hazard pay that would serve as an “additional and special benefit.”
In addition, all COVID-19 positive health workers “must receive a COVID-19 related benefit worth P100,000.”
They also requested the immediate conduct of free mandatory and regular swab tests on all health workers – with or without symptoms – and the conduct of proper and necessary containment of the disease.
The group also implored NKTI management to “be capable in upholding the rights and welfare of employees and patients’ safety against coronavirus.”
Their other demands concern government agencies and health officials in general, like the filling up of over 13,000 vacant positions by the Department of Health, hiring additional regular health workers to handle COVID-19 patients, regularizing all contractual health care workers, enacting a national minimum wage for those receiving Salary Grade 1 and a P750-per-day wage for those in the private sector, and an increase in the government’s health budget.
“We lay down our lives to save the lives of our fellow countrymen. We therefore urge decision makers in government to heed our calls and address our needs in these trying times because like them, we also have families who depend on us to live a dignified life,” said Pacheco. – Rappler.com