THE national government and lawmakers have been urged to prioritize the inclusion of non-medical frontline staff serving in hospitals and quarantine facilities among those eligible to receive Special Risk Allowance (SRA), Hazard Pay and other benefits.

The latest to add his voice to this advocacy was former Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr.

The move to include them, underscored in a series of congressional hearings on delays in the   release of pandemic-related benefits, was made by health-care workers’ representatives who noted that thousands among them, including ambulance drivers, staff in non-Covid wards and janitors, were not covered by the SRA and hazard pay.

Several senators supported that move, but health and budget officials said while they wanted to give the benefits to all medical workers, the resources were limited.

“When it comes to benefits like SRA and Hazard Pay—SANA ALL,” Marcos said in a statement, referring to the viral public-service reminders for people to complete all health protocols—face mask, shield, social distancing, washing hands—against Covid-19.

“I keep repeating this and will fight for it. This has always been my advocacy because everyone working in hospitals and quarantine facilities are exposed to the same risks,” Marcos said, partly in Filipino.

Marcos lamented the delays in releasing the benefits to non-medical and outsourced staff considered essential frontline workers.

“Guards, janitors, non-medical staff in laboratories and other support staff are considered frontline workers but how come they are also experiencing delays in their benefits?” Marcos added.

Marcos was also saddened by the fact that health-care workers had to resort to extreme measures just for their plight to be noticed by authorities.

“Do our frontliners need to make a ruckus just to be noticed by the government?  It shouldn’t be like this.  Agencies such as DOH should ensure that their welfare is being looked after,” Marcos said.

“The government should prioritize the bills that will expand the coverage of SRAs, hazard pay, and other benefits for healthcare workers.  They are deemed heroes, that’s why we should show our appreciation for their sacrifices by giving them the benefits they rightfully deserve,” Marcos said.

Two separate bills from the Senate and the House of Representatives seeking to give SRA to all public and private health workers during the pandemic were filed last week.

Marcos also noted the growing number of hospitals experiencing staffing problems as more health workers either get sick with Covid-19 or resign due to the tremendous workload.

Dr. Jonas Del Rosario from the UP-PGH reported last week that 11 volunteer doctors decided not to renew their contracts with the institution.  He added that their manpower is overstretched and that they now resort to “task sharing” among departments to sustain the operation of their Covid-19 wards.

Health workers groups have mounted protests and walkouts in private and government-run institutions to denounce the unreleased benefits.

Pressed by the congressional inquiries, DOH said last week that up to 100,000 healthcare workers will now be able to receive their delayed SRAs and other benefits after the DBM issued two allotment orders to cover its release.

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