BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
Members of the Medical Frontliners Alliance of Negros (MFAN) will be joining a nationally coordinated protest on September 21 calling for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III for failure of the government to grant medical health workers benefits such as special risk, meal and transportation allowances.
Noli Rosales, one of the convenors of MFAN and coordinator of the National Labor Union, yesterday said that simultaneous protests will also be held by frontliners in Iloilo and Manila also calling for the Duque’s resignation.
Rosales said they will march from Rizal Elementary School to the Fountain of Justice at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Medical frontliners from The Doctors Hospital, Dr. Pablo O. Torre Memorial Hospital, and Queen of Mercy Hospital have confirmed to join the protest, as well as other people’s organization who also sympathize with the plight of medical frontliners in Negros Occidental.
He said the failure of the government to provide these medical frontliners special risk, meal and transportation allowances has pushed some of them to resign from hospitals in Bacolod City and the province. Their resignation could be the reason why hospitals could no longer accommodate COVID-10 patients due to shortage of staff nurses.
Medical frontliners are supposed to receive P5,000 for 22 days of duty but the Department of Health (DOH) guidelines specifies that only those who cater to COVID-19 patients can avail of these allowances, Rosales said.
This is discriminatory as some nurses and other hospital staff like janitors and security guards, who don’t cater to COVID-19 patients, are also at risk of exposure to the virus, he said.
So, they are calling on President Rodrigo Duterte and the DOH not to discriminate these hospital workers from receiving such allowances, he said.
They should also be entitled to accommodation and hazard pay which will sum up to a total of P30,000 for each individual frontliner aside from Special Risk Allowance or SRA, Rosales said.
Executive Order Nos. 36 and 42 that provides a budget of more than P13 billion for public and private health workers appears to be discriminatory. There is not even any allocation provided for their benefits in the Budget for 2022, he said.
Rosales said these medical frontliners are considered modern day heroes but are not given proper benefits aside from receiving low salaries.
Noel Alisen, Philippine Agricultural, Commercial and Industrial Workers Union (PACIWU)- Bacolod chapter president, said they are asking the government to provide medical health workers their allowances to motivate them to continue extending services to COVID-19 patients.
They are also inviting other health workers to participate in the protest to bring their demands to the DOH and the Duterte administration. Under the DOH guidelines, not all medical frontliners can avail of these allowances because it is not clearly defined who are eligible, he said.
Alisen said they will be also appealing to the City Government of Bacolod to provide subsidy to medical frontliners in private hospitals as they risk their lives in catering to COVID-19 patients.
Bacolod Councilor Wilson Gamboa said he will come up with a resolution to professionalize frontliners hired by the city so they can receive professional fees and salaries including benefits that are not provided under the law since they are hired as job order casual employees.
They could only be professionalized through contractual services by upgrading their salaries and providing them other benefits they could avail of, he said.
Gamboa said they will try to find a budget to be realigned for COVID related expenses or responses. He will also prepare another resolution appealing to private hospitals to provide benefits to their medical health workers, he added.*