Senator Sonny Angara prodded the Department of Health (DOH) to address the issue of contractualization within its ranks and hasten the regularization of the doctors and nurses working in its hospitals and other facilities.
As chairman of the Committee on Finance, Angara confronted the DOH about underspending in the amount of P24 billion, a portion of which pertains to funding under the now expired Bayanihan 1 and 2 laws.
During the Blue Ribbon Committee’s hearings on the various issues related to the DOH, Angara said there are around P6 billion of funds under B1 and B2 that were unutilized, P1 billion of which has already reverted to the national treasury.
The Senator noted that the reverted P1 billion in funds was for the DOH’s human resource for health (HRH) program or the hiring of doctors and nurses and their deployment to areas where they are needed the most.
“May P1 billion na unobligated for HRH. Alam naman natin na umaangal ang ating nurses na they are not getting their benefits. Umaangal sila na ang starting salaries nila is lower than what is statutorily provided,” Angara said pertaining to the Nursing Act of 2002.
“If I’m not mistaken, sabi ng mga nurses: bakit sila kinocontractual at ang binibigay na salary is salary grade 11 or P23,000 e ang nasa batas is salary grade 15 or P33,000. Hindi ba pwede gamitin doon yung pera? Bakit hindi sila napepermanent?” Angara added.
Considering that health workers are the most critical frontliners during this pandemic, Angara has repeatedly reminded the DOH to provide them with everything that they need, including all their benefits as provided under the law.
Among these are the monthly special risk allowance as provided for under the Bayanihan laws and the hazard allowance mandated under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
But apart from ensuring the benefits are paid, Angara said the DOH should address the nagging issue of contractualization within its ranks.
“I was told DOH has 13,700 contractuals outside of those in the local government units. Baka naman there is a way to speed up the filling of positions. Kasi ang report that we are getting is nagaalisan na ang ating health professionals,” Angara said.
The DOH has noted that there are 13,428 unfilled positions out of its total of 80,308. Health Secretary Francisco Duque said that while he supports the filling up of the vacant plantilla positions right away, the DOH is prevented from doing so because of the qualification standards required, particularly the rules under the Civil Service Act.
Angara also cited the urgent need for the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) to settle the amounts due to the private hospitals.
“The situation I’ve been hearing in the private hospitals is quite dire. Nursing services ate only 30 to 50% of their usual manpower. The arrears from PhilHealth are over a year in the 10s or 20s of billions. Anong plano dito? Are we happy with the current state of affairs to continue? Are we not moving towards improving the situation?” Angara said.