DOH says it's probing delayed benefits for health workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 29) — The Department of Health says it is not ignoring reports of delayed delivery of benefits to health workers, rather it is investigating all allegations to get to the bottom of the matter.

In a statement dated November 28, the DOH said, "We are taking the issue of delayed benefits very seriously. When matters like this come to our attention, we conduct thorough investigations and concerned offices are made to answer to the Secretary and develop solutions to improve the delivery of services and expedite."

The DOH asked healthcare workers to let them know which institutions have not released their benefits, and to write a complaint and support it with evidence so that an investigation can be done.

It added healthcare workers "have experienced working on the ground, in our health facilities, which is why we understand the challenges in the frontlines being overworked, underpaid, demoralized, and in this pandemic, even more vulnerable."

Recently, some nurses in the country reiterated their call for a timely rollout of salaries and other promised benefits including hazard pay and special risk allowances.

Last week, Maristella Abenojar, president of Filipino Nurses United, lamented the "unjust" treatment of health workers, telling CNN Philippines that her group continued to receive complaints of delayed wages and benefits.

A Senate public hearing has also heard that more than 16,000 medical frontliners have yet to receive the hazard pay appropriated for them under the now-expired Bayanihan to Heal as One Act. Senator Pia Cayetano, sponsor of the Department of Health's proposed 2021 budget, attributed this to lack of funds, adding the agency "intends to request another budget" to cover the promised benefit for health workers.

The FNU, for its part, said the DOH should "source out funds" for the unpaid frontliners, especially since they have already worked and exposed themselves to the possible threat of the coronavirus.

The group's appeal resurfaced following the government's latest move allowing health workers to leave and work abroad at a rate of 5,000 per year. FNU said the yearly cap on overseas deployment is not the solution for medical personnel to want to remain in the country but rather the delivery of timely salary and compensation.