Complaint over delayed P5.8-B allowances filed

FULL CAPACITY  An advisory that reads “Full Capacity for COVID-19 cases” is seen posted at a hospital in Pasay City at the height of the pandemic in 2021. —RICHARD A. REYES
FULL CAPACITY An advisory that reads “Full Capacity for COVID-19 cases” is seen posted at a hospital in Pasay City at the height of the pandemic in 2021. —RICHARD A. REYES

A group of private health-care workers has filed a complaint against several regional offices of the Department of Health (DOH) with the Anti-Red Tape Authority (Arta) over the delayed disbursement of P5.8 billion in allowances for over 53,000 medical front-liners who served at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the United Private Hospital Unions of the Philippines (UPHUP), the amount covers the Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) that should have been given as far back as 25 months for health-care workers who went on duty in 155 private hospitals during the pandemic.

The group, which has 26 hospitals as union members, invoked Republic Act No. 11032, or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018, when it filed its complaint with Arta on Monday.

Aside from the UPHUP’s member hospitals, 129 other health-care institutions with no unions sought the group’s help for the same reason.

‘Unpaid benefits’

In a letter addressed to Arta Director General Ernesto Perez, the UPHUP said it had “initiated inquiries [with] the DOH regional offices regarding the unpaid HEA benefits” of their health-care workers through an email sent on Aug. 25.

Since then, only five Centers for Health Development (CHDs)—which are in charge of the distribution of COVID-19 allowances to hospitals per region—have responded, the group reported.

On the other hand, 11 other CHDs, namely in Metro Manila, Ilocos, Calabarzon, Mimaropa, Western Visayas, Central Visayas, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao, Davao, Soccsksargen and Bangsamoro, have yet to reply.

The UPHUP said that under the Ease of Doing Business Act, there should only be a maximum of 20 working days for applications or requests involving activities that impact public health, safety, morals, policy, and other highly technical subjects.

“The nonresponsiveness of these regional offices stands in direct contradiction to these legal provisions,” the group noted in a statement.

‘Deeply frustrating’

“The lack of action from a government agency that should be addressing the problems faced by health-care workers is not only disappointing but also deeply frustrating,” said UPHUP lead convener Ferdinand Gan, also vice president of the Alliance of Filipino Workers.

The Inquirer contacted the DOH for comment but had yet to receive one as of writing time. During the Commission on Appointments’ deliberations for the confirmation of Health Secretary Teodoro Herbosa, Sen. Risa Hontiveros raised the issue of the government’s ballooning arrears to health-care workers who looked after COVID-19 patients. INQ

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