The Department of Health (DOH) reported on June 9 that it has delivered checks to the families of healthcare workers who perished due to COVID-19, or those who contracted a severe form of the disease, pursuant to the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Bayanihan Act). President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the immediate release of the compensation by June 9, after more than two months since the law was enacted but it has not been released.
The Bayanihan Act in Section 4 (f) grants public and private healthcare workers who contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty to a P100,000 compensation, and one million pesos (P1,000,000) to the family of any health worker who may die while fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.
The DOH said all checks for 32 qualified beneficiaries of the P 1 million benefit have been issued, and 30 checks have been received by their families. Heirs of two fallen health care workers who are based abroad, in the United Kingdom and the United States of America, are still in coordination.
As for the compensation for those who contracted severe COVID-19, the Health Department also announced that it has also distributed all 19 checks for the health workers.
Nurses group FNU (Filipino Nurses United) said they are extremely disappointed by the information that only 19 out of more than 2,000 infected health workers will be given the P100k monetary benefit.
“This is the height of insensitivity and lack of compassion to nurses and other health workers who have put their lives at risk,” the group said in its statement.
FNU believes that nurses and other health workers who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty should be given the P100,000 benefit regardless of its degree of classification. Majority of COVID infected nurses had been diagnosed as mild cases, but they go through the anxieties and all kinds of stresses (physical, psychological, emotional and economic) of being a patient, altogether impacting their families and co-workers.
Nurses got the highest number of infected among health workers. As of June 9, the COVID-19 cases among nurses in the frontlines are at 1,019 out of 2,787. They make up 37% of the cases.
“Every single day, the nurses face the uncontained risks and escalating work demands as COVID 19 cases remain unabated. FNU has been deeply concerned with the increasing number of cases among nurses. As DOH has reported, nurses top the list of infected health workers, making up almost 50% of 2700 plus, numbering 1006. We are saddened again that there was a reported death of another nurse yesterday (June 10),” said the group.
The new death the group mentioned is yet to be included in the report of the DOH.
“Based on studies, regardless of degree of infection, the symptoms of COVID-19 linger for a month after recovery. Therefore, the individual cannot go back to his/ her usual work immediately. Many COVID-19 infected nurses with “mild symptoms” who are contractuals with “no work, no pay” employment status, have to be hospitalized or quarantined but did not have income for one month to three months. They neither receive any benefits such as the hazard pay nor qualify for other Social Security System’s compensation because their hospitals do not qualify as well,” lamented the group.
Because of the requirement of a “severe case” to receive compensation, the benefit becomes an “empty promise” to the group.
“Ironically, we can count with our fingers, the number of COVID-19 infected health workers who survived the intubation and severe pneumonia. So therefore, this stringent requirement of being diagnosed as severe COVID19 case to get the P100k benefit is likely to be an empty promise of incentive to those in the health workforce and those still joining the battle,” said FNU.
The group said this in relation to the Joint Agreement Order the government released on June 4 to expedite the release of compensation. It defines the severe COVID-19 case, which means a very critical case of severe pneumonia, with the patient needing intubation and artificial ventilator.
The nurses, who the group said comprises 70% of the Philippines’ health care work force, are left on their own to care for themselves when they themselves contract the infection.
The group demands from government and employers for nurses’ protection, just compensation and adequate hazard pay and benefits, aside from the P100,000 benefit for those who contracted COVID-19 in the line of duty.