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Health workers and benefits

The Department of Health has urged Congress to amend Republic Act No. 7305, the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, to narrow the salary gap between health workers in government and those in private hospitals, including provisions on hazard pay and educational and housing assistance for private health workers as well.

Under RA 7305, enacted on March 26, 1992, medical workers in government are also entitled to other benefits such as subsistence, laundry and remote assignment allowances.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire, officer in charge of the DOH, also suggested that Congress pass another salary standardization law for the deployment of human resources for health programs of the DOH – which allows the hiring of contractual workers to augment the department’s workforce around the country.

The disparity between the wages of government and private sector medical workers is common knowledge in the community. The basic pay for health workers in government is estimated to be more than double than those in the private sector.

Vergeire noted that the employment trend in the medical community during the pandemic has seen many medical workers from private institutions “migrating” to government facilities.

Jao Clumia, spokesperson for the Private Hospital Workers Alliance of the Philippines, welcomed the DOH proposal to make the Magna Carta more inclusive. He said that at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, where he is also the union president, all other health workers, apart from physicians and nurses, have a starting salary equivalent to the minimum wage.

He also lamented the slow release of the One COVID-19 Allowance and the Health Emergency Allowance for private health workers.

While most of the world has unanimously hailed health workers as heroes throughout the pandemic, it is disappointing to see that a sizable percentage of them in this country are not even being compensated well enough. The yawning gap in terms of compensation between health workers in the public and private sector needs to be closed significantly if the quality of healthcare is going to improve and the country’s healthcare system be ready for any future shocks that could threaten public health.

The DOH proposal to make the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers more inclusive, so it benefits more from that critical sector, should be given due consideration, especially after everything we have been through over the past two years.*

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