“The anti-people, anti-health worker, pro-foreign capitalist policies of the Aquino government erode the gains we attained in our 30 years of struggle.” – Jossel Ebesate, Alliance of Health Workers
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – Fe Trinilla, 58, a nurse supervisor at the Dr. Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital related that in their hospital nurses are on duty for 16 hours a day due to lack of staff.
Trinilla is assigned at the emergency department of Fabella hospital, which receives at least 70 to 80 pregnant mothers about to give birth a day. “Some patients are referred to other hospitals because the hospital is often full. At least 103 babies are confined in our neo-natal intensive care unit. That is already excessive.”
“Our work has become even more hectic especially now that Jose Reyes (Memorial Medical Center) closed its OB [obstetrician-gynecology] department. More pregnant mothers, especially those who are poor, are coming to Fabella,” Trinilla said in an interview with Bulatlat.com.
It is clearly stated in Section 10 of Republic Act No. 7305 also known as Magna Carta of Public Health Workers that “there shall be no understaffing or overloading of public health workers.”
“The ratio of health staff to patient load shall be such as to reasonable effect a sustained delivery of quality health care at all times without overworking the public health worker and over extending his/her duty and service,” Section 10 of the RA 7305 further read.
In a protest action marking National Health Workers Day, May 7, Jossel Ebesate, national president of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), said, “It seems that what is stated in the RA 7305 does not matter under this administration.”
Ebesate added that the administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III has failed to protect their job security, refuses to grant the much-needed salary increases and adequate benefits for health workers and has turned its back on its responsibility to uphold the right to health of the people.
Overworked, reduced benefits
Ebesate slammed the Aquino government for reducing the benefits that were guaranteed to health workers by RA 7305.
Section 21 of RA 7305 says “Public health workers in hospitals, sanitaria, rural health units, main health centers, health infirmaries, barangay health stations, clinics and other health establishments located in difficult areas, strife torn or embattled areas, distressed or isolated stations, prison camps, mental hospitals, radiation-exposed clinics, laboratories or disease-infested areas or in areas declared under state of calamity or emergency for the duration thereof which exposes them to great danger, contagion, radiation, volcanic activity/eruption, occupational risks or perils on life as determined by Secretary of Health or the Head of unit with the approval of the Secretary of Health, shall be compensated hazard allowances equivalent to at least 25 percent of the monthly basic salary of health workers receiving salary grade 19 and below, and five percent for health workers with salary grade 20 and above.”
“The law is clear,” Ebesate said, criticizing the move of the Aquino administration to categorize the entitlements to hazard pay with Department of Budget and Management and Department of Health Joint Circular No. 1, which states the rules and regulations on the grant of compensation-related Magna Carta Benefits to Public Health Workers. In the said circular, hazard pay is categorized into two: high risk and low risk, and the hazard pay a particular health worker would receive depends on this categorization.
“I don’t know of their (DBM) competence to do such categorization, but health workers are always exposed to risks whether they are working as a clerk or in maintenance,” Ebesate said. He added that the Mers-CoV for one, shows that a virus could be hazardous to anyone who has been exposed.
RA 7305 also states that the normal working hours of any public health worker shall not exceed eight hours a day or 40 hours a week. But this is frequently being violated. For example, Mark Maglangit, 48, nursing assistant at the Philippine Heart Center, has been working for 12 hours a day. He said that because the hospital is corporatized, an internal policy called “modified structural schedule” is being implemented.
“The anti-people, anti-health worker, pro-foreign capitalist policies of the Aquino government erode the gains we attained in our 30 years of struggle. Our job security is being threatened by the irrational Rationalization plan,” Ebesate said.
No more permanent positions
Health workers under Aquino also suffer from contractualization. At the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI), employees are hired on a contractual basis, said Joey Espanillo, president of the NKTI Employees Association – AHW. This has also been the case at the Lung Center of the Philippines, according to Ely Sobinsky, president of the Lung Center of the Philippines Employees Association – AHW.
“The number of regular employees is reducing because the government has stopped hiring for regular positions,” Espanillo said.
“Contractual employees do not receive benefits such as overtime pay, night differential and 13th month pay,” Sobinsky said.
According to Ebesate, contractual employees are not only being deprived of their benefits and security of tenure but also their right to join unions. They are also being threatened that they would lose their jobs if they join an organization.
Sobinsky said they have every reason to join and stay in an organization like the AHW that upholds the rights of health workers and the people. “We have to assert our rights that are provided for by law and those which we gained through our collective efforts. Someday, through our collective efforts, we will achieve more victories for the Filipino people.”