More health workers slam confidential funds

By: Kathleen de Villa - Reporter - Philippine Daily Inquirer | September 08,2023 - 11:55 AM
confidential funds

WHERE’S OUR HAZARD PAY? About 200 public health workers in protective suits stage a “sit-down protest’’ outside the Department of Health building in Manila on Wednesday, the day the Bayanihan 2 stimulus spending law lapsed. The workers are demanding the release of their benefits, including a monthly P3,000 COVID-19 hazard pay. —RICHARD A. REYES

As lawmakers scrambled to keep secret some government agency’s confidential funds, another healthcare workers’ group denounced the lack of funding for the salary increase of nurses and other medical personnel, which it said may help curb understaffing in hospitals.

In a statement on Thursday, the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) called out the Marcos administration for slashing the allocation for the health sector by P13.9 billion as it could compromise even further the quality of healthcare services in the country.

It also joined the call to junk or realign the proposed P10 billion in confidential and intelligence funds for certain government agencies “to reflect what [the President] claims as a pro-active, resilient national budget.”

“We challenge this administration to junk the… anomalous confidential and intelligence programs and rechannel this for essential social services. Best even to allocate 10 percent of the GDP (gross domestic product) for health services,” said FNU.

Citing Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa’s report during the budget hearing for the Department of Health (DOH) at the House of Representatives, FNU noted that unfilled nurse positions in government hospitals stood at around 127,000 as of June this year.

“As a matter of right, the Filipino people deserve free, quality health care. But this proposed budget makes it nearly impossible with its obvious callousness to the people’s health needs as well as the nurses’ welfare confronted with acute understaffing and starvation wages,” it said.

The DOH and its attached agencies and corporations could suffer a huge budget cut, possibly getting only P311 billion next year from an allocation of P322 billion this year.

On Wednesday, the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said it was also “outraged” that the funding for DOH hospitals was slashed, while other government agencies get a huge slice of the budget pie for confidential and intelligence funds.

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A total of P10.141 billion in confidential and intelligence funds were inserted into the proposed P5.768 trillion national budget. Almost half of the sum, or P4.56 billion, is being requested by the Office of the President.

The AHW, which staged a protest in front of the House of Representatives as health officials presented their 2024 budget, pointed out the insufficient allocation of P19.96 billion for the delayed payment to healthcare workers who clocked in hours to serve COVID-19 patients in public and private health facilities in the last three years.

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TAGS: confidential funds, helthcare workers, nurses

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