Barangay health workers who provide “direct care” to COVID-19 patients are entitled to Special Risk Allowances (SRAs) from the government, the Department of Health’s (DOH) regional office clarified Monday.
This clarification was made by Dr. Mario Baquilod, Officer-In-Charge (OIC) Director of the DOH Center for Health Development (CHD) in MIMAROPA, during the Question Hour session of the City Council.
This came as several city councilors criticized the department for raising “false hopes” among BHWs by not being clear on the specific guidelines on who are eligible to receive the SRAs.
Dr. Mario Baquilod explained to city officials that “all barangay health professionals” are eligible for the SRA, but must fulfill necessary requirements.
“‘Yong ating BHW ay kasama, lahat sila. May mga requirements na dapat i-submit sa atin. Kasama ang Barangay Health Workers sa makakatanggap ng SRA,” Baquilod said.
Joselito Padua, chief administrative officer of the CHD, added however, that BHWs who are eligible for SRAs must be fully registered, assigned to a hospital, laboratory, or medical/quarantine facility, and provide critical and urgent services to respond to a COVID public health emergency, or those who provide “direct care” to coronavirus patients.
“May mga certain condition lang para mabigyan ang BHW. Una, dapat ang BHW dapat fully registered, assigned sa hospital, laboratory, medical/quarantine facility, at nagbibigay ng critical and urgent services to respond to COVID public health emergency, meaning may direct care siya sa pasyente,” Padua said.
He said that BHWs are among those who are entitled to receive SRAs, and they stressed this during their orientation last year. He said that a CHO official had attested to this.
“In fact noong orientation last year, in-emphasize po ‘yan, kasama ang mga BHW na makakatanggap and based po sa aming listahan ay mayroong nag-attest na taga-City Health Office na nag-attend ng orientation,” Padua said.
But CHO chief Dr. Ric Panganiban, who was the official being alluded to, contradicted Padua, asserting his statement “is not true”.
Panganiban said he was not told that BHWs are allowed to get SRAs during their orientation in December of last year.
“Gusto kong sabihin na hindi ‘yan totoo. ‘Yong Executive Order No. 35, ito ang tinutukoy nating Active Duty Hazard Pay. Parang nagco-conflict kami nila director. Talagang tinanong ko yan sa kanila during orientation, kasi kami gusto talaga naming ilagay [yong name ng frontliners]. Kami ay kasama as frontliners ngunit kahit minsan hindi ako nakatanggap ng SRA,” Panganiban said.
“Huwag sana akong gawing kontrabida dito. Kung alam ko lang pala na puwede pala kaming isama, mabilis pa sa alas kuwatro naisama ko lahat,” he added.
Councilor Herbert Dilig, said that the prior statement on the BHWs’ SRA benefits was “quite confusing”.
Dilig said the DOH regional office should clarify if receiving SRAs is “subject to administrative order and requirements”.
“Medyo ang gulo lang kanina dahil ang sabi pupuwede ‘yong mga barangay health workers kahit na hindi sila nagse-serve sa isolation facility,” Dilig said.
“Yong statement lang po na lahat ng barangay health workers ay entitled dito sa mga hazard pay at kung anu-ano pang benepisyo, kung hindi natin dadagdagan ng ‘subject to requirements and qualifications under the administrative order’, is not complete and, in fact, in a way misleading,” he added.
According to Baquilod, they also base who can receive the SRA on what is presented in their paperwork from their central office.
“We’re also basing sa mga binibigay sa aming dokumento galing sa central office na dumarating sa aming kagawaran kung sino itong BHW na dapat makatanggap ng mga benefits,” he said.
Dilig, on the other hand, slammed the DOH regional representatives, claiming that everything they’ve said has just given BHWs “false hope”. He said that they should just inform them whether or not they would receive the SRA.
“Kung sasabihin lang na lahat ng BHWs ay makakatanggap ng hazard pay tapos hindi idudugtong ‘yong phrase na subject to requirements and existing administrative order, parang pinapaasa lang natin ‘yong ating mga health workers. Sa kanila okay na, tapos doon sa existing administrative order mayroon pang mga requirements na dapat sundin,” Dilig said.
“Kanina lang po nakita ko, with due respect po. Medyo pinipilit niyo pong pagandahan ng MIMAROPA ‘yong dating sa ating mga barangay health workers pero binibigyan lang po natin sila ng false hope. Let’s tell them straight kung ano ‘yong talaga,” he added.