Sunday, April 12, 2020

Instead of a sweeping ban on deployment abroad, nagkaisa urges gov't to hire health workers in the civil service

The Nagkaisa! Labor Coalition believes that building up our public health system is one of the most important lessons of this pandemic.

The fact that our health system is now overwhelmed when we have yet to reach the peak of infections proved that privatization has only imperilled the government’s capacity to respond to the pandemic.

Clearly there is a need to rapidly increase the country’s number of hospital beds per 1,000 persons and be at par at least with our ASEAN neighbours. This requires not just filling up staff requirements of our public hospitals but also building new ones.

It is for this reason that Nagkaisa! insists that the government hire health workers in the civil service and not rely on volunteers -- or resort on a sweeping ban on deployment of all health workers including those who are already employed abroad.

The DOH appears to have taken no effort to hire health workers in the civil service despite authority given under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Sec 4(m) of RA 11469).

The irony is that despite having the authority and enough budget, estimated at P75B for health and support services, no tangible effort or concrete action was done to recruit medical professionals in our civil service.

At the DOH official website only 15 vacancies are posted (3 part-time) as available to be filled up. Yet, government is banning and "offloading" from their flights hundreds of workers employed abroad in the past few days.

DOH is more active in recruiting volunteers with P500/day allowance rather than hiring with compensation in the civil service.

Nagkaisa! recommends the following:

1. Instead of a ban, Nagkaisa! suggests that medical and medical professionals and other necessary workers may be hired by DOH and be part of the civil service. In Article II, Section 4, the Constitution provides that all citizens may be required, under conditions provided by law, to render personal civil service.

3. Government must take care of our local private health workers if we would like them to remain in the country. They should also be given hazard pay of P500/day like that of their public sector counterpart or 25% of their basic salary, whichever is higher.

4. Also, DOH volunteers now should be upgraded and hired as health workers with salaries, depending on their qualifications, equivalent to the salary grades (SG) of their functions, like a nurses to SG 15 to 18 or a doctors SG 21 to 24.

5. Nagkaisa! demands that the GAA for 2020 onwards must prioritize health expenditures to match global benchmark of not lower than 10% of the GDP. Currently, the country is spending only 4.6% of the GDP for health service.

Further, Nagkaisa! also wants to get apprised of the details of the National Action Plan so workers know their place in that plan and to see if there is a particular space there where labor and other sectors' participation would matter.

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