Press Release
September 7, 2021

Acknowledging that almost all healthcare workers may be considered exposed to the threats of COVID-19, Bong Go calls for more efficient and 'inclusive' provision of Special Risk Allowance

Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee on Health Christopher "Bong" Go appealed to the Department of Health to study the possibility of expanding the provision of the Special Risk Allowance to all health workers who are serving in health facilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

In an interview on Sunday, September 5, Go reminded the DOH to ensure that health workers are sufficiently supported at this time by taking the necessary steps to address any impediment that may prevent the timely release of the SRA and other related forms of support.

"Para sa akin, pag-aralan nating mabuti. I am appealing to the DOH na pag-aralan ng mabuti. Bigyan natin ng importansya itong health workers, ma-pribado man o pampublikong ospital, dahil sila ang isinabak natin sa giyerang ito. Ang COVID-19 ang kalaban at buhay ng mga health workers ang nakataya dito," emphasized Go.

The Senator explained that the Bayanihan 2 Act limits the provision of the SRA to health workers who are in 'direct contact with COVID-19 patients'. He, however, argued that given the number of cases being catered to in hospitals and health facilities, almost all health workers can fall within the scope of the definition.

"Ang posisyon ng DOH ay baka maabuso ang SRA kaya dapat 'yung mga exposed lang sa COVID-19 ang dapat bigyan. Ako naman, mahirap i-determine kung sino ang exposed dahil buti sana kung nakikita natin itong kalaban, itong COVID-19," continued Go.

"'Pagdating mo sa ospital, 'di mo naman masasabi. Once nasa loob ka na, prone at maituturing na exposed ka na rin. Hindi mo masabi na walang virus sa dinaanan mong floor dahil dito lang ang virus kasi hindi nga natin nakikita ang kalaban," he added.

The DOH disclosed that it initially proposed to the DBM a total of P50.4 billion for 365,000 public and private health workers and their COVID-19 special risk allowance, hazard pay, transport, insurance, accommodation or meals for a period of 12 months. In particular, SRA has a funding requirement amounting to P18.03 billion or P1.5 billion per month for a total of 300,500 health workers.

Meanwhile, the DOH budget under the 2022 National Expenditure Program of the DBM includes P3.8 billion for emergency hiring of human resources in health facilities for COVID-19 response. The figure already includes the provisions for their SRA, Active Hazard Duty Pay and salaries.

In light of these developments, Go vowed to ensure that the DOH is adequately funded in the next fiscal year. He expressed concern over the impacts of any more delays in the release of the SRA and underscored its importance in helping boost the morale of the health workers whose valuable contributions to the COVID-19 response should be recognized.

"Dadaan naman sa amin sa Senado ang budget ng DOH. Kung kailangan sa-komite o bicameral, tutulong ako dahil sabi ko nga importante itong SRA ng ating health workers. Ipaglalaban ko 'yan," promised Go.

"Bilang committee chair ng Health, ako'y mag-aapela at ipaglalaban ko... kapag dumating 'yan sa amin sa Senado ay tutulong ako na mahanapan ng paraan na mabigyan sila ng pondo papunta next year. Kasi ayaw kong ma-low morale ang ating health workers. Ipaglalaban ko ang kapakanan nila palagi," he reassured further.

The Senator has repeatedly called on the government to ensure the welfare of the health workers who are confronting increased risks and an ever-growing workload. He previously successfully issued several appeals urging government to grant a COVID-19 SRA to health workers working directly with COVID-19 patients, and an AHDP to Human Resources for Health personnel who are also serving in the frontlines.

He likewise called on government to grant more assistance and protection to health workers, such as the provision of personal protective equipment, inclusion in the COVID-19 testing protocol and additional pay, among others.

As Vice Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Finance, he fought for the inclusion of additional funds in the 2020 budget to provide for the salary increase of public nurses in Nurse I and II positions.

He also authored the Salary Standardization Law 5 which raised the salary of all civilian government employees, including public health workers, from 2020 to 2023.

"Bilang Chair ng Senate Committee on Health, ipinaglaban natin na mabigyan ang ating frontliners ng dagdag benepisyo at allowance na naaayon sa batas lalo na sa panahon ngayon ng health crisis," said Go.

"Lubos ang aking pasasalamat sa mga frontliners na patuloy nagsasakripisyo at nakikipaglaban sa pandemya upang masiguro ang kaligtasan ng mga kababayan natin. Kayo ang inaasahan ng bayan ngayon. Kaya nga frontliners dahil kayo ang nakakaalam ng ganitong giyera. Stay assured na handa kami ni Presidente Duterte na makinig at magserbisyo sa inyong lahat," he added.

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