Quirino health workers decry unpaid benefits
CABARROGUIS, Quirino–Health workers in this province are up in arms against the non-payment by the provincial government of their hazard pay, while denouncing local politicians for their supposed reckless spending of public funds.
The provincial chapter of the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) here on Monday slammed the alleged apathy shown by the provincial leadership for their failure to settle unpaid benefits of about 300 health workers.
Dr. Reynald Narbarte, president of AHW Quirino said their members are demanding the hazard pay that they are supposed to receive, as mandated by Republic Act 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.
Under the law, government employees in the health sector are entitled to at least 25-percent of their monthly salary as hazard allowance.
He expressed regret that instead of prioritizing the payment of the health workers’ benefits, Gov. Dakila Carlo Cua and provincial board members, and other officials have been allocating millions of funds for other “less important” expenditures.
“We have always included the payment of these benefits every time we submit to the board our proposed budget but, unfortunately, these would always be slashed from the approved funding,” the AHW president said.
Narbarte cited the P88 million that was supposedly earmarked as the governor’s discretionary fund, P3 million of which is reportedly allocated for the conduct of medical missions.
He criticized the governor’s activities, saying these were being merely used as “pogi points” (political grandstanding), and are sources of corruption by unscrupulous officials.
“They could just have used the money to improve hospitals, which are dire need of medicines and supplies. The sick people are in these hospitals, so why don’t (officials) pour the money there instead?” Narbarte said.
The provincial government operates the Quirino Provincial Hospital here, Maddela District Hospital and Aglipay District Hospital in Maddela and Aglipay towns, respectively.
According to Jenny Donelo, the group’s representative to the AHW national council, Cua’s medical missions were “impractical” as many of these were conducted even among villagers who had easy access to government hospitals.
“Since the passage of the (law) in 1992, health workers of the Quirino provincial government have not received our hazard pay, while our politicians are busy spending millions for medical missions. We believe, these so-called medical caravans are impractical because if they really want to help us, they could have tried to be at least conservative in their spending,” said Donelo.
Sought for comment, Cua said the provincial government is trying its best to give the workers their due compensation as frontliners of the province’s medical program.
“In our latest dialogue, we arrived at an understanding that their much-deserved request will be prioritized on the next (passage of a) supplemental budget (by the provincial board),” he said.
He also defended the medical missions: “(These) are bringing the much needed health program closer to the people. Our poor brothers and sisters in Quirino have just as much right to be served by (their) government,” he said.
Asked why it has taken the provincial government more than 10 years to consider the payment of hazard pay to its health workers, Cua said: “That question will be best answered by the past governors.”