Healthcare workers still await allowance

Healthcare workers still await allowance
File photo

ALMOST a year since the World Health Organization (WHO) stopped considering Covid-19 as a global health emergency, many Cebu-based healthcare workers still have to receive their cash allowances.

According to the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (Uphup), over 80,000 healthcare workers from 25 private hospitals are waiting for their health emergency allowance (HEA) promised to them by the Department of Health (DOH)).

The DOH 7 owes them 12 to 20 months’ worth of HEA, Uphup spokesman Ronald Ignacio told SunStar Cebu in an interview on Sunday, April 14, 2024.

Based on the HEA dashboard of the DOH’s website, as of April 3, only P61.6 million of the P23.265 billion approved HEA for 2023 has been released.

In Central Visayas, P1.969 billion was approved for 379,339 healthcare workers’ claims for 2023, with zero amount released.

In Cebu, a budget of P386.3 million was approved intended for 81,809 healthcare workers.

The dashboard includes figures not only of private hospitals, but also of state-run hospitals and other health facilities.

The HEA, formerly known as One Covid Allowance, covers the period from July 2021 to July 2023.

Republic Act 11712

The HEA is provided for under Republic Act 11712, or the Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act, which entitles health workers to receive HEA for every month they render service while the country is under a state of public health emergency.

The amount healthcare workers receive varies depending on the risk level of their employment: P3,000 for low-risk areas; P6,000 for medium-risk areas; and P9,000 for high-risk areas.

Ignacio said only healthcare workers from the Cebu South General Hospital and the Siliman University Medical Center in Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental have received their HEA.

He said healthcare workers in more than 40 private hospitals in the region have yet to receive their HEA.

Ignacio said Mark Quilates from the DOH 7 informed the group that the health agency is finalizing the disbursement of P2 billion.

However, he said he learned that the DOH 7 still needs another P2.4 billion to settle all remaining arrears its owes healthcare workers in the region.

SunStar Cebu asked DOH 7 Director Jaime Bernadas for the current status of the HEA and the reasons for its delay on Sunday, but he was unable to provide specific details as the data were in his office.

The Uphup appeared before the Senate last April 2, along with officials of the DOH and the Department on Budget Management, to discuss and answer the query of the Senate committee on health and demography.

Ignacio said the officials were “in a quandary” and were “pointing fingers” during the discussion.

“None of it was illuminating as to when we will finally get the remaining arrears of the HEA owed to us. It was clear though that these said agencies are in a quandary as to how to reconcile their data and unite once and for all for the welfare of the healthcare workers they once called heroes,” he said.


Meanwhile, Ignacio said many healthcare workers in Central Visayas have received quitclaim deeds, which they found “highly irregular.”

The quitclaim states that recipients acknowledge that the amount they will receive is correct and sufficient and they will waive any actions or complaints against their employer and DOH.

Ignacio said this violates the joint administrative order from the DOH and the Department of Labor and Employment that was designed to hear complaints regarding the HEA.

He said the quitclaim “invalidates” the order should there be discrepancies.

“Healthcare workers are desperate. They will be coerced to sign that quitclaim even if they know that it will be disadvantageous to them or that there is a discrepancy just for the hope of finally laying their hands on their much deserved and long delayed HEA,” he said.

Ignacio said Quilates explained to him that the quitclaim was intended for healthcare workers to return any extra amount they receive for a specific month.

Ignacio said the concern has already been conferred to Uphup’s legal counsel.

The Uphup is composed of representatives of healthcare workers from hospitals that have no employee unions.

The WHO announced on May 5, 2023 that Covid-19 no longer qualifies as a global emergency, three years after it wreaked worldwide havoc in 2020.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. also lifted the state of public health emergency in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic on July 22, 2023. / JJL


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