MANILA — Health Sec. Francisco Duque III renewed his appeal to doctors and nurses in a radio interview last June 12 to work on the frontlines of the government’s COVID-19 campaign as  infections continue in parts of the country. 

In the Dobol B interview, Duque admitted that the Department of Health (DOH) is having a hard time with its emergency hiring program as “registered nurses and doctors are looking for greener pastures abroad or in other non-medical professions while some are afraid of contracting COVID-19.”

“Hindi mo naman masisisi dahil merong pangamba pero ako ay nakikiusap sa kanila sa panahong ito, wala naman pong ibang magtutulungan kundi tayo-tayong mga Pilipino,” he said.

“Tayong mga nurse, mga doktor, alam naman natin na ang trabaho natin e mag-alaga ng pasyente. Kung iilag tayo sa ganoong trabaho, bakit tayo nagpaka-nurse, nagpaka-doktor kung sa bandang huli pala ay manlalambot tayo at ‘di natin kakayanin? ‘Di ba?” he added.

Duque also noted that the DOH central office downloaded funds to regional officers for the emergency hiring program, assuring applicants PPE and other necessary tools are provided all over the country.

Since April, the DOH has been appealing to health workers to join the government’s health workforce, assuring there are enough funds “for the employment of additional manpower. However, only a few health workers were heeding the call.”

HCWs’ 2021 HAZARD PAY STILL UNRELEASED

In a report by GMA NewsDOH Undersec. Leopoldo Vega said on Sunday, hazard pay and special risk allowance of health frontline workers from January to June are still being processed by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“‘Yung hazard pay saka special risk allowance… itong January hanggang June 2021 ito hinihingi namin sa DBM… ‘Di pa nare-release pero alam ko nagagawa na ito,” Vega said during his interview with Dobol B TV.

Vega also raised concerns health workers resigning from their jobs can cause understaffing in hospitals.

Last June 11, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) urged the government to release the nurses’ retroactive pay since January 2020 in compliance with Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea’s June 1, 2021 memorandum setting the salary of entry level nurses to Salary Grade 15 (PHP32,000), up from Salary Grade 11 (PHP22,000).

“We urge the government to ensure that all nurses in public sector enjoy the upgrade of entry salary to SG 15 for beginner nurses with Nurse 1 positions, including those in local government units and those without employee-employer relationship, with retroactive pay since January 2020 as stipulated in DBM Circular 2020-4,” the FNU said, noting the memorandum is consistent with the October 2019 Supreme Court decision setting the base pay for nurses in government institutions at Salary Grade 15 as provided under the 2002 Philippine Nursing Act.

The memorandum also reversed DBM’s Circular 2020-4 which demoted those with Nurse 2 to 7 rank to one rank lower even if they will retain their salary prior to demotion.

“We also appeal that the estimated PHP3,000 increase in SG 16 for Nurse 2 positions contained in the OP circular dated June 1 (Medialdea memo) and likewise be made retroactive to January 2020,” FNU said.

“The salary upgrading for nurses is long overdue. It took 18 years for the momentous implementation of the Nursing Law of 2002 while no significant wage increase has ever been implemented for majority of government nurses and it is even worse for those in the private sector,” the group added.

Meanwhile, the DOH has opened 10,300 health worker positions all over the country as part of its emergency hiring program which aimed to augment operations in health facilities.

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