Sen. Grace Poe pushed for the provision of a “special risk allowance” for all public healthcare frontliners confronted with the perils of the novel coronavirus as the Senate on Monday tackled a bill giving the President special powers for quicker procurement in the government’s effort to quell the pandemic.
During interpellation over Senate Bill No. 1418, Poe pressed for allocating a budget where such extra allowance can be drawn, saying that doctors, nurses and other health workers deserve more than the hazard pay that the law mandates given the dangers they were facing.
“While the law states that they shall receive a hazard pay, we propose that a special risk allowance be added to this pay because our health workers are confronted with a different kind of hazard this time, which can be potentially fatal when they are not able to take the necessary safety precautions,” she said.
Fighting COVID-19 involves serious risks so frontliners must be properly incentivized for their work and given adequate compensation, she emphasized.
Under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, the hazard allowance of health workers with salary grade 19 and below is equivalent to at least 25 percent of their monthly basic pay, and 5 percent for those with salary grade 20 and above. The Department of Health (DOH) has released P378 million for this purpose.
Poe suggested that if the DOH has no discretionary fund to tap for the health workers’ special risk allowance, the Department of Finance and the Department of Budget and Management should be able to identify which funds in the national budget can be used for the additional compensation.
“It doesn’t necessarily need to match the amount of their actual hazard pay, just extra compensation to cover for their other needs,” she pointed out.
Poe also made sure that the bill prioritized the procurement of personal protective equipment, testing kits, and other medical devices such as mechanical ventilators, vaccines once available and other drugs proven effective to treat COVID-19 in other countries.
“This will be very helpful because once a vaccine has been discovered and proven to be effective or other drugs found to be potent against the disease, we will be able to act fast and avail of that as quickly as possible,” she said.