Members of the progressive group Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) marched to Malacanang on Friday during a Black Hearts’ Day protest as they demanded for a national minimum wage of P16,000 monthly and the protection for health workers and patients’ safety against CoronaVirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and other diseases.
The group also called for a higher health budget at least 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended.
“Overworked and underpaid this is the perennial situation of health workers in our country. It worsens our public health situation due to understaffing and currently the ratio between the nurse’s and patients becomes worst especially now that a lot of our wards and out-patient department (OPD) was multiplied by three times compared to the previous years,” said Robert Mendoza, AHW National President, in a statement.
Mendoza said health personnel in public hospitals are direly lacking. He said in the Jose R. Reyes Memorial Medical Center (JRRMMC) particularly in male surgical ward, only one nurse is to 60 to 80 patients with two nursing attendants on duty. While in National Center for Mental Health (NCMH), one nurse is to 250 to 280 patients, he said.
The epidemic of COVID-19 worsened the recent situation of health workers in San Lazaro Hospital. They are ordered to work 12 hours for 7 days straight without any additional compensation and benefits, said Mendoza.
Moreover, health workers salaries are pegged below minimum wage, as the Train Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act 3 aggravated the acceleration of prices of commodities and transportation, he said.
In the Salary Standardization Law of 2019 (SSL of 2019) the Salary Grade 1 or Utility Worker (SG1) who receives P11,068 last year has an increase of P483.00 per month or P16 per day which has a total of P11, 551 monthly salaries.
In result, their automated teller machine cards have been pawned in order for them to survive and worst they cannot even redeem it anymore, he said.
“We condemn the SSL 5 of Duterte administration; it is biased to high ranks, deceptive and unjust to ordinary health workers, rank and file employees. Furthermore, deadly and infectious diseases like meningococcemia, polio, diphtheria and the most recent COVID-19 outbreak now all over the country a clear manifestation of the government’s negligence and abandonment of the public health care system.
Health workers debunk the DOH in saying that they already had an additional P2 billion budget for health workers Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to protect themselves in COVID-19.
“We are questioning the DOH where the additional P2 billion budget is, we cannot feel it. We don’t even have stocks of masks in Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center and the rest of public hospitals. The face masks that they provide us is very low quality wherein virus, germs and bacteria can easily penetrate,” Cristy Donguines, of JRRMMC-AHW, stated.
Donguines said this inadequacy in the public health system is the result of the Duterte government’s subservient adherence to global neoliberal policies. The budget cuts and the privatization of public hospitals will lead to increased morbidity and mortality rates, she said.
“We also call on the government to resume peace talks with NDFP to bring just wage, security of tenure and free health and social services to all the Filipino people,” Mendoza stressed.
Duterte promised for a change and yet the struggle of the Filipino people against oppression, poverty, corruption and injustices continue, said Mendoza./Stacy Ang