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Proposed 2021 health budget callous to people’s hunger and poor health

/ 04:01 AM September 15, 2020

The proposed 2021 national health budget is an uncaring budget for a nation suffering from hunger and the devastating economic and health effects of a pandemic that is still wreaking havoc on both the poor majority and the health care workers on the front lines.

The allotment of 2 percent for health in the national budget reflects the severe callousness toward our people’s health and safety and survival needs, while abandoning the distress call of health workers at this time of a pandemic and giving the bigger chunk instead to firearms, intelligence, roads, and infrastructure.

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It is unfathomable that the proposed 2021 budget would not be geared toward increasing health capacity standards. Worse, it has slashed the operational expenses of public hospitals, including the budget for public health. For decades, workforce augmentation has been the usual excuse for the hiring of nurses as casuals, contractuals, or under job order (JO), contract of service (COS) and Nurse Deployment Program (NDP). However, nursing jobs in both hospitals and public health programs are vital and essential, and not piecemeal, “pakyaw,” or temporary work as government (CSC-COA-DBM) defines it.

The proposed 2021 budget does not clearly show the sustained implementation of the upgrade in the entry salary of government nurses, which has a P3 billion budget in 2020 from the miscellaneous personnel benefit fund. We denounce the issuance of DBM Circular 2020-4, which mocks the essence of the Philippine Nursing Law of 2002 to uplift the general welfare of the nurses, because while it upgrades the salary of more than 6,000 government nurses with Nurse 1 position, the circular downgrades the positions of the rest of the nurses from Nurse 2 to Nurse 7. The circular has essentially thrown away the credited dedicated years of government service and qualified rank positions of around 50,000 nurses.

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This deplorable condition not only violates the labor rights of nurses, but most especially also deprives our people of much-needed care during a national health emergency.

We therefore recommend the allotment of the necessary budget for the following:

1) Regularization of all JO, COS, NDP, and all other contractual nurses.

2) Filling up of vacant positions for all government health workers and the creation of new plantilla positions such as additional 6,000 staff nurses in hospitals and 42,000 public health nurses, to have one nurse in every barangay (42,000 barangays).

3) Sustained implementation of SG15 entry-level salary of government nurses and consequent salary upgrading of other senior nurses regardless of employment status and government employer (national, local, GOCCs, SUCs, NGAs, PGH).

4) Provision of P100,000 compensation for COVID-19 and work-related sicknesses, special risk allowance (SRA), hazard pay of P500 for eight hours’ duty to all nurses and health workers, and death benefit of P1 million during the pandemic, regardless of community quarantine status.

5) Provision of free, adequate, and appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

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6) Conduct of regular RT-PCR COVID-19 test for all government and private health workers every 15 days, and provision of paid 14 days quarantine period.

7) Provision of free food, accommodation, transportation, and medical expenses for all frontline public and private health workers.

8) Allocation of health emergency funds to our private sector nurse colleagues and health workers for additional salaries, SRA and hazard pay, as well as PPE.

FILIPINO NURSES UNITED
[email protected]

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TAGS: 2021 budget, 2021 DOH budget, Filipino Nurses United, health workers, Letters to the Editor, medical frontliners
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