Saturday, May 09, 2009

Health Workers Brave Storm to Mark National Health Workers’ Day with Protest

By CHARMAINE P. LIRIO AND GLAIZA MAY G. MUZONES
Bulatlat - http://www.bulatlat.com


MANILA — Heavy rains on Thursday May 7 did not stop health workers from celebrating the National Day for Health Workers with a protest on the wet and almost flooded streets of Morayta.

With their umbrellas and white coats, public health workers protested for salary and benefits increase in their sector. They also condemned the privatization of public hospitals and the dire state of health services in the country.

“We nurses, doctors, and other health workers who have chosen to stay in the country amidst crisis, poverty, sickness and corruption decry the willful neglect and disregard of the Arroyo government of the health workers and Filipino peoples’ plight,” the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) said in a statement.

Led by AHW, the alliance of public health workers’ organizations, the protesters held a motorcade from the Lung Center of the Philippines and intended to have their program in Mendiola when they were blocked by the police.

Against privatization, corporatization

The health workers also expressed opposition to the government’s plan to privatize health services through House Bill (HB) 3287.

“Instead of ensuring the right to people’s health, the Department of Health revenue enhancement programs are giving heyday to private entities while making poor patients pay for every piece of cotton used,” AHW said.

HB 3287 was filed by by Rep. Roque Ablan, Jr. as part of Arroyo’s emergency resiliency package early this year. The bill seeks to corporatize public hospitals in the country.

Aside from this, some public hospitals now have Revenue Enhancement Programs (REP).

According to Remi Ysmael, President of Tondo Medical Center Employees Association, their hospital implements REP by requiring patients to pay for services that were previously offered for free.

Salary increase?

Dr. Geneve Rivera, Secretary General of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), said the government is deceiving public health workers through Joint Resolution 24.

”Tumaas ang ating sahod, binawasan naman ang ating benepisyo at papalittin pa nito ang mga matatanggap na kakarampot ng ating mga manggagawang pangkalusugan sa mga pribado at pampublikong ospital,” she said. (”Our salaries increased but our benefits were reduced, this will further lessen the already meager income of our health workers in public and private hospitals.”)

Joint Resolution No. 24 legalizes the abolition of economic and non-economic benefits gained through the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers or Republic Act 7305 of 1999.

RA 7305 includes in its provision the benefits and incentives of health workers such as subsistence allowance, hazard pay, and one-grade increase for compulsory retirees.

Under the HJR 24, Salary Grades 1 to 9 employees will receive a 30.1 percent increase in wage, which will be divided in four years as compared with the 100-142 percent increase of those in higher positions.

According to the health groups, even if this increase in wage would be implemented now, they will remain below the poverty line because of the reduction in their benefits and the inadequate raise. Also, with the current global economic crisis, the increase is negligible.

Leni Nolasco of the Philippine Nurses Association, meanwhile, said the provisions under the Nursing Act of 2002 are not recognized by hospitals until now.

Nursing Act of 2002 emphasizes the expansion of the nurses’ role to include comprehensive specialty programs, establishes a minimum pay for nurses working in the government and abroad, and expands the Board of Nursing membership.

“Hindi naman nila talaga tinutugunan yung mga pangangailangan ng mga nurses. Karamihan sa mga nurses, naghahanap na lang sila ng trabaho sa labas ng bansa, imbis na nagsisilbi sila sa ating kapwa mamamayan, sila ay natutulak upang pumunta sa ibang bansa”, she said. (The government does not really address the needs of our nurses. Most of our nurses look for jobs outside the country instead of serving their own countrymen; they are forced to go out of the country.)

Celebration

Alongside the celebration of the National Health Workers’ Day, AHW celebrated its 25th year anniversary.

A program was held at the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) where Senator Loren Legarda, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health, said the country invests less than one percent of its GDP on health while the United Nations investment benchmark should be five percent.

“There is hardly money for basic health care, for the maintenance and operations of public health centers and hospitals,” Legarda said.

Also present in the event were members of the All UP Workers Union, Council for Health and Development, Health Students’ Action, and unions and employees association from the Lung Center of the Philippines, Center for Mental Health, Heart Center, San Lazaro Hospital, and other city and provincial hospitals.

Former President Corazon Aquino proclaimed May 7 as National Health Workers’ Day in 1987 as recognition for the contribution of health workers in the country. (Bulatlat.com)

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