The cost of rationalization plan to government services

Jose Flores Anacio, 51, utility worker for 24 years at the Philippine General Hospital. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil/ Bulatlat)

At the Philippine General Hospital, patients have been increasing but employees have been decreasing, thereby affecting service delivery.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

MANILA – For the past years, the number of utility men at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) utility men has been decreasing, said Jose Flores Anacio, 51, utility worker for 24 years at the country’s premier public hospital.

Anacio, a member of the Utility Workers’ Association in PGH said management has not hired utility workers due to the rationalization plan of the government. Those who have resigned, retired or died while in service were not replaced. From more than 500 utility men, there are now 451 left and 68 of them are contractual workers.

Read: Contractual workers in government may lose jobs in 2019

This has greatly affected the services provided by PGH to the patients, he said, as one utility worker covers two areas.
“With the increasing number of patients getting medical care in PGH, employees should also increase so we could provide quality service,” he told Bulatlat in an interview.

Ferdinand Gaite, national president of the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE), said the rationalization plan of the government, which was implemented beginning 2004, has worsened understaffing and contractualization in the government sector.

EO 366 of Arroyo

During the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Executive Order (EO) 366 series of 2004 was signed. In this EO, all departments under the executive branch were directed to conduct a strategic review of their operations and organizations for the purposes of 1) focusing government efforts and resources on its vital/core services and 2) “to improve the quality and efficiency of government services delivery by eliminating/minimizing overlaps and duplication, and improve agency performance through the rationalization of service delivery and support systems, and organization structure and staffing.”

Gaite said positions that were first eliminated in the government were utility workers, janitors, clerks, drivers and security guards. “In the guise of professionalizing the bureaucracy, non-professional workers were dismissed from work and are now hired as contractual workers,” he said.

At present these posts are outsourced from other private agencies or if not, they are contractual workers, whose contracts are renewed every six months, directly hired by the government agency.

Gaite reiterated that these workers who were deemed to be not in the “core function” of the government agencies also play crucial roles in the delivery of quality services to the people.

For example, he said, at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) social workers who are in the core function of the agency would eventually need the assistance of the janitors and utility workers.

“Hindi magagawa ng mga social workers yung trabaho nila kung walang admin services na magsu-support sa kanilang functions,” he said. (Social workers could not do their functions well without support from admin services.)

“Just like when the agency has a car, then there should be a driver. Or when there’s a building then there should be janitors and security guards,” he added.

As of 2016, data from the Civil Service Commission’s Inventory of Government Human Resources shows that there are 720,000 non-regular employees which can be found in various government agencies. Of this number, 420,000 mostly are from the 1,715 local government units.

Leading government agencies that have the most number of non-regular employees are the Department of Public Works and Highways with 22,419, followed by the Department of Health with 21,424 and the Department of Social Work and Development with 20,890. The local government of Quezon City also has 10,249 non-regular workers.

The effect of rationalization plan to the delivery of services

The PGH is a 1,500 bed capacity public hospital under the University of the Philippines. According to a study provided by the All UP Workers Union–Manila to Bulatlat, the emergency department admits, at the average, at least 500 patients a day which is beyond its 65 authorized beds. Patients in the Obstetrics & Gynecology-Admitting section have also tripled which also exceeded its 20 authorized bed capacity.

That is why through the years, Anacio said, he has seen the difference in the performance of their duties, from kayang-kaya to kinakaya (easy to difficult but could be done). Now, they are in the stage where they just have to survive the eight hour work in the overcrowded hospital.

He is assigned in two areas, at the intensive care unit and at the charity ward. As a utility man, he is in-charge of bringing patients to the operating room, to the laboratory and bringing specimen of the patients to the doctors. Inevitably, as there are only limited number of utility workers and there is an influx of patients in the hospital, there are delays in providing services.

There were instances when calls for assistance from patients, nurses and doctors are received at the same time. He said doctors, especially in emergency cases, help in any way they can like carrying the oxygen tank while he pushes the patient’s bed going to the laboratory because his sole body cannot do both at the same time.

Complaints from the patients and their relatives are also unavoidable, he said. In instances when patients are cranky due to long queues, he explain to them their condition.

“I explain to them that I am the only one who is assigned in this area and there are many calls for assistance that I have to attend to. I just ask for their understanding,” he said.

Asked if there was any instance of him getting cranky too because of demanding patients and exhaustion, he said no. “My patience is long,” he said.
With his arduous work, he sometimes refuse calls for SOS in areas that he does not cover. There are also days that he had skipped a meal due to fatigue.

Rationalization plan continues under Duterte

In July 2017, the House of Representatives (HOR) passed House Bill 5705 or An Act rightsizing the national government to improve public service delivery, which also proposes to “minimize, if not eliminate, redundancies, overlaps and duplication” in the government.

The proposed law covers all agencies of the “executive branch, including department, bureaus, offices, commissions, boards, councils and all other entities attached to or under their administrative supervision and Government Owned and Controlled Corporations not covered by GOCC Governance Act of 2011.”

The bill was already transmitted to the Senate which is pending for second reading.

A report said the bill will affect 10,000 to 20,000 government employees if passed into law.

ACT Teachers Representatives Antonio Tinio and France Castro condemned the passage of the bill at the HOR saying that that the bill is no different from the rationalization schemes of the past administrations that caused the deterioration of public services and affected the number of government workers as well.

Add to that the imminent implementation of Joint Circular No. 1 series of 2017 released by the Civil Service Commission (CSC), Commission on Audit (COA) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) in December 31, 2018.

Meanwhile, All Government Employees Unity or All GE Unity, a coalition of organizations of public school teachers, health workers and civilian personnel has continued to oppose such policies and fight for the government workers’ right to security of tenure.

They are also pushing for the passage of House Bill 7415 which “aims to prohibit all forms of labor contractualization in the public sector.” It was filed by the Makabayan bloc last March. The bill proposed to provide civil service eligibility for all non-regular employees who have worked continuously for at least six months. It also proposed to provide security of tenure to all non-regular employees in the government.

Read: Contractual workers in the gov’t push for security of tenure for non-regular employees

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