MANILA, Philippines — As the Philippines marks the second Health Workers' Day amid the coronavirus pandemic, Sen. Risa Hontiveros called on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to "fully explain" the long delay of hazard pay for medical frontliners.
More than a year into the COVID-19 crisis, the senator said hospitals are still overwhelmed and conditions are "hell on earth" for healthcare workers (HCWs).
Hontiveros also backed calls from HCW union groups for the government to improve working conditions by funding periodic COVID-19 testing, immune boosters, free personal protective equipment and the continuous hiring of more health workers.
“All year long, health workers have made desperate calls for better pay and genuine support," she said. "The Health Secretary should stop giving them the cold shoulder, and should explain why he fails to do his job when health workers wholeheartedly do theirs with their lives on the line."
Under Bayanihan 2, the Department of Health received an additional P3 billion allocation for face masks, personal protective equipment, shoe covers and face shields, as well as P13.5 billion for emergency employment and compensation of HCWs. Duterte signed the stimulus measure into law in September 2020 and extended its validity until June 30, 2021, in January.
"We have reached the point where there are reports of KKB or other health workers paying for their own [PPEs]. It's as if we don't care if they live or not," Hontiveros said in Filipino.
“Health workers deserve safe and decent working conditions. Instead of Sec. Duque insisting that all the needs are being met, perhaps he should listen to what the health workers in the hospitals have to say," she added.
"In the middle of a health crisis, an out of touch Health Secretary is the last thing we need."
— Bella Perez-Rubio
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