(June 3, 2020) – Health workers who died or have been infected by the deadly coronavirus have not been paid a single peso as promised by the government, senators were shocked to learn on Tuesday.
In a Senate inquiry, senators were dismayed to find out from health department officials no compensation was given to hundreds of doctors, nurses and allied health workers who got infected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Some of the health workers have died.
They described government’s “neglect” to take care of health workers as “disappointing” and “criminal” as no payment was made three months into the public health crisis.
Under the “Bayanihan to Heal as One” law, enacted in late March to respond to the pandemic, health workers who fall ill from the COVID-19 will receive 100,000 pesos assistance, while families of those who succumb to the virus will get a million pesos.
In a Tuesday’s hearing which stretched to until late night, however, it was found that no one has been able to avail the COVID-19 benefits because of the lack of implementing rules and regulations.
“It’s quite upsetting to find out that so many months have gone without the DOH crafting the [rules] here,” Sen. Sonny Angara said. “These people…we keep praising them as our heroes and yet that’s just lip service if we don’t give them anything.”
Based on latest figures by the health department showed that a total of 2,669 medical professionals have contracted the deadly virus, with 32 fatalities.
The active cases are at 1,199, with most showing mild symptoms and others with no signs at all. One patient is currently in severe condition.
Nurses remained with the highest number of infected at 980, followed by doctors at 727, nursing assistants at 173, medical technologists at 109, radiologic technologists at 55 and non-medical staff at 332.
Doctors account for most of the fatalities among workers hailed by around the world as “front liners” in dealing with the pandemic.
The non-payment of compensation surfaced only when senators asked the health department on progress report about the assistance to health workers. In his weekly report to Congress, President Rodrigo Duterte has not detailed the said compensation to health workers.
Health officials had been long criticized for the handling of the COVID-19 situation in the country, ranging from transparency of data, testing backlogs, and to giving a daily 500 pesos hazard pay to hospital workers, to name a few.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Richard Gordon said the lack of implementing rules is not “an excuse not to comply with the law.”
“A little investigation would tell us [that] you can pay them because they died because they were on the front line,” Gordon said. “That’s a no brainer. The IRR is always an excuse to delay the wheels of justice and health in this country.”
Over the course of the pandemic in the country, some of the struggles medical workers had to face include discrimination and being forced out of their homes for neighbors’ fear of getting infected.
A hospital staff in Sultan Kudarat, a province in the Mindanao island, was also assaulted with bleach at his face.
The health department has yet to respond on the matter which surfaced during the Senate hearing, but Gordon said those responsible for giving out the compensation should soon be called to attention. (Christian de Lano Deiparine /MM)
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