Over 10,000 health workers could lose jobs due to DOH budget cut – Recto

MANILA, Philippines – Over 10,000 health personnel under the Human Resource for Health Deployment Program (HRHDP) could lose their jobs because of the P9.39-billion cut in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), according to Senator Ralph Recto. 

Recto said apart from 7,107 nurses, 202 dentists and 597 medical technologists could also become jobless by in 2020. “This is equivalent to 4 in 10 [health workers], a plague-like 40 percent casualty rate.”

This concern comes as the DOH gears up for the implementation of the Universal Health Care (UHC) law in 2020. (READ: EXPLAINER: What Filipinos can expect from the Universal Health Care law) 

Recto said that to be able to retain 26,389 health workers in 2020, the HRHDP should be granted a P16-billion budget allocation, which would need adding P6.55 billion to the program’s P9.45 billion indicative budget. 

The DOH’s proposed budget for 2020 is P160.15 billion, lower than 2019’s P169.45 billion. 

The agency’s HRHDP, the program that strengthens the primary health workforce across the country, will get P2.45 billion under the proposed 2020 budget – a massive cut from the P8.5-billion it received in 2019.

This budget is to be augmented by the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF). In 2019, P3.8 billion was drawn from said fund. In the proposed 2020 budget, P7 billion will come from the MPBF, which could raise the total HRHDP fund to P9.45 billion. 

The release of the additional fund from DBM, however, is “subject to conditions and not automatic,” Recto emphasized.   

“The P2.45 billion under the DOH budget will only cover the continued employment of 3,854 nurses, out of the 17,293 deployed this year,” Recto said. “Add the 6,322 nurses to be funded by MPBF and the potential total comes up to 10,186 hired and rehired in 2020, he added. 

Recto said increasing the DOH budget is necessary to prevent the country from becoming an “an archipelago of dismissed nurses.”

“We have to do this because the health professional deployment and dispersal program is one of the lynchpins of UHC. Thus, the UHC should be launched with a great leap forward in the number of doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, medical technologists and other health workers to unserved and underserved, poor and far-flung areas,” the senator said. 

The landmark UHC measure was signed into law in February. The DOH signed its implementing rules and regulations (IRR) Thursday, October 10.

Asked about the potential job losses due to the budget cut, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said nothing is final yet about the budget, and that talks with the DBM are still ongoing. 

Quezon province 4th disctrict Representative Angelina Tan, the UHC bill’s principle sponsor in the lower house, said lawmakers are “helping the DOH to regain the cuts in the budget.” Tan also said they are still looking at the proposed budget closely to find allocations that could be channeled to the implementation of the UHC law. Senator Risa Hontiveros, who lobbied for the bill in the Senate, said as much about efforts in the upper house. 

Duque had said some P257 billion was needed for the first year of UHC’s implementation. But because the amount is beyond their proposed budget for 2020, the DOH said there would be a gradual or “progressive realization” of the rollout of the landmark law.

The law, which mandated the enhancement of primary healthcare, would be implemented in 33 integration sites in 2020.  

The health department said, that together with local government units, it  could learn from the experience of the first batch of provinces and cities. The goal under the new law is to optimize service delivery, health regulation, health care financing, governance and performance accountability, and health systems development. – Rappler.com