The COVID-19 Benefits and Allowances for Health Workers Act 2021 has gained the support of the Cebu health sector.
The Act scheduled for signing by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte aims to provide benefits and allowance to health care and non-healthcare workers who have rendered service in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, both in the public and private sectors.
Health care workers and non-healthcare workers refer to any private and public medical personnel, administrative, technical, support, other necessary personnel employed in health facilities, and anyone involved in the COVID-19 response including Barangay Health Workers.
The enrolled bill has been endorsed to the Office of the President and has been recommended for signature by the President.
The IATF-Visayas, Department of Health Central Visayas; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center, Cebu Provincial Health Office; Cebu Provincial Hospitals; and the City Health Offices of the cities of Cebu, Mandaue, and Lapu-Lapu expressed support for the said enrolled bill in a consultative conference held at the Visayas COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center on April 11.
The said conference was organized by PLLO led by Sec. Luzverfeda Pascual and Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas (OPAV) led by Sec. Michael Lloyd Dino.
The discussion centered on the extent and demarcation of coverage to truly follow the intent of the legislation.
Under the bill, for every month of service during a state of a public health emergency, those deployed in low-risk areas will be given P3,000; those deployed in medium risk areas will be given P6,000 and those deployed in high-risk areas will get P9,000 if they render 96 hours of monthly service.
The measure will not affect any existing compensation and benefits already given or currently granted to health care workers.
Low-risk exposure refers to health workers performing administrative duties in non-public areas of health facilities while medium-risk exposure refers to health workers within the health facility who provide direct physical care to the general public who are not suspected of COVID-19 patients.
On the other hand, high-risk exposure refers to health workers who provide care and enter the room of COVID-19 patients.
Health care allowance benefits have a retroactive application from July 1, 2021, and will remain in full force and effect during the state of national public health emergency as declared by the President.
This measure applies not only during the COVID-19 pandemic as declared by the President but also to any similar health emergencies on a national scale.
The measure also provides that those who contracted COVID-19 during duty will receive benefits are as follows:
- In the case of the death of the said individual, their heirs and covered individuals are entitled to P1,000,000;
- In the case of sickness or severe critical case, P100,000 shall be provided to covered individuals; and
- For mild or moderate sickness, P15,000 shall be given to covered individuals.
The compensation shall be given to the beneficiaries upon completion of requirements and not later than three months after the date of confinement or death.
Also, Philhealth will cover the costs for hospitalization for health care and non-healthcare workers due to COVID-19, subject to fund availability and the assessment of the Health Technology Assessment Council.
The benefits under this Act shall have a retroactive application from July 1, 2021, and shall remain in full force and effect during the state of national public health emergency as declared by the President.
The measure also calls for the creation of an ad hoc grievance board that will receive, investigate, adjudicate and recommend actions for the settlement of complaints on failing to receive benefits.
The board will be composed of three members – one grievance officer appointed by the DOH; one representative from the health professional organizations; and one arbitration officer from the Department of Labor and Employment.
Undersecretary Anthony Gerard “Jonji” Gonzales, who represented Dino during the meeting, said OPAV will schedule a meeting with Visayas COVID-19 Vaccination Operations Center led by Gen. Melquiades Feliciano, the Project Balik Buhay, and the Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center (VSMMC) represented by Dr. Helen Madamba and Atty. Paul Lopez to manifest the comments for inclusion in the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the said measure.
Gonzales added that OPAV will endorse the recommendations of various concerned sectors to the PLLO.
During the meeting on April 12, Feliciano made suggestions for inclusion in the IRR of the Healthcare Workers Benefit and Allowances Act.
Feliciano recommended the inclusion of health care workers and non-healthcare workers involved in COVID-19 response in the community as among those who will receive the benefits stated in the said measure.
He called for the inclusion of individuals who are involved in transporting covid positive individuals from the community to health facilities and those who conduct testing and physical interview with first-generation close contacts in the high-risk category.
Feliciano also urged that those providing logistics or “ayuda” to the general public who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients be included under the moderate risk category.
Mrs. Mia Feliciano also suggested that the administrative staff of the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) be placed under the category of Low Risk.
Feliciano also recommended that EOC be categorized as a healthcare facility with a low-risk classification.
Meanwhile, the VSMMC health care workers have signed a manifesto in support of Senate Bill 2421 and House Bill 10701, which aimed to provide benefits to health care workers. (PR)