Gordon clears path for continuing benefits for healthcare workers
Senator Richard J. Gordon has cleared the path allowing public and private healthcare workers to continue enjoying their benefits due them as they risk their lives and safety taking care of those who are afflicted with new coronavirus disease.
As the Senate adjourned its session last Sept. 29, Gordon co-sponsored Senate Bill (SB) 2421 for plenary debate in response to the healthcare workers’ clamour to allow them benefits.
“The Senate does act fast, the Senate does react,” he said, mindful that healthcare workers assigned either to COVID or non-COVID-19 facilities have always been exposed to the new coronavirus disease during this protracted pandemic.
According to him, he fought for the inclusion of an allotment for SRA for the healthcare workers in the proposed PhP5-trillion national budget for 2022 when he initiated a legislative investigation on government’s spending on COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are really a lot of things that happened from the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing for that matter. Any committee in the Senate will come out with positive engagement in so far as addressing the problems of the frontliners,” he added.
Gordon, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, has repeatedly lamented the alleged misuse of the government COVID-19 funds where healthcare workers’ benefits, such as active hazard duty pay (AHDP) and SRA, were delayed.
“I precisely said when I started the hearing that we will tackle first the matter of the SRA of the nurses and the people who were left behind particularly healthcare workers. This is now the result of it,” he said in his sponsorship speech.
He said he was able to secure the assurances of the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that they will fund the benefits of healthcare workers, with retroactive application from July 2021.
“Habang isinusulong ang benepisyo ng mga healthcare workers sa ating panukalang batas, huwag nating kaligtaan ang benepisyo ng ating mga health workers na hanggang ngayon ay hindi pa rin nakakatanggap,” he said.
He also asked DOH and DBM to aggressively look for funds needed for the continuing benefits of healthcare workers, including those barangays healthcare workers and other laboratory technicians, encoders, among many others.
Under the consolidated measure, health workers at low risk of contracting COVID-19 shall be provided with PhP3,000 extra allowance per month; PhP6,000 for those at medium risk; while the frontliners who are at high risk shall receive PhP9,000.
These benefits, he added, shall be on top of other benefits mandated under Republic Act (RA) 7305, also known as the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, such as subsistence, hazard, and housing allowance, among others.
Gordon has been leading the Senate investigation into the alleged anomalous government procurement of medical supplies and equipment with favored suppliers, notably with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corporation.
Based on 2015 official figures, there are about 488,800 healthcare professionals in the country. In 2020 alone, about five percent of the total COVID-19 cases in the country are healthcare workers, 38 of whom have died due to the virus.