Health Department mulls giving incentives to Filipino frontliners amid growing displeasure

Health workers protest at the Philippine General Hospital. Photo: Alliance of Health Workers/FB
Health workers protest at the Philippine General Hospital. Photo: Alliance of Health Workers/FB

Medical workers could possibly receive additional incentives, the Department of Health (DOH) said today, as more frontliners complain about their lack of benefits amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines.

Earlier this week, workers at the Lung Center of the Philippines staged a protest to decry the delayed release of their hazard pay. Meanwhile, nurses at the Philippine General Hospital are demanding adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), better shifts, and regular coronavirus testing after 11% of their colleagues were infected with the respiratory disease.

Filipino Nurses United, a non-profit organization, said in a statement today that medical workers are “overworked, underpaid, [and] unappreciated” and demanded better pay, benefits, and security of tenure.

Read: Cebu City nurses planning to quit as hospitals see spike in COVID-19 cases

All these complaints are being heard by the government, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said in an interview with news program Unang Hirit today, but rejected assertions that hospitals have inadequate PPEs.

“To our healthcare workers, we understand their complaints…We’ve been doing emergency hiring…so that we could have emergency health human resources that we could assign to different hospitals. [We have done this so] they could have more people so that the staff could have some time to rest,” Vergeire said in English and Filipino.

“We have adequate PPEs now. If in the past the supplies have yet to arrive, now we have adequate PPEs that we are providing to all hospitals– even [for] private hospitals, we’re providing them with PPEs. There is infection among hospital [workers] because there is community transmission. But definitely, we are listening to our healthcare workers,” she insisted.

She also said that the DOH’s Executive Committee (Execom) is looking at the possibility of handing out more benefits to frontliners.

Read: Nightingales in Peril: Filipino nurses put their lives on the line in the UK

“We had a discussion within the DOH Execom on how we could better respond to the requests of our healthcare workers and provide them with more incentives,” Vergeire added.

Hospitals all over the country are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, with the DOH reporting yesterday that 74% of ICU beds are occupied, while 82% of isolation beds have been taken up. Meanwhile, 86% of ward beds have been occupied by coronavirus patients.





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