DBM to DOH: Address issues on release of health workers’ allowance

By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos

April 16, 2024, 9:36 am

<p>Healthcare workers <em>(File photo)</em></p>

Healthcare workers (File photo)

MANILA – The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has called on the Department of Health (DOH) to address the bottlenecks in the release of the unpaid health emergency allowance (HEA) claims of healthcare workers.

DBM Secretary Amenah Pangandaman made the call on Monday, as she noted that her office has released around PHP91.283 billion to the DOH for the disbursement of health workers’ benefits and allowances.

"To date po, mula po nang nagsimula ang pandemic at saka po nagkaroon ng batas para mabigyan ng compensation 'yung ating mga health workers, PHP91.283 billion na po ang nare-release ng DBM (when the pandemic started and the law for the distribution of health workers’ compensation was enacted, the DBM already released PHP91.283 billion),” Pangandaman said in an interview over dzBB’s One on One Walang Personalan program.

In a statement Tuesday, the DBM cited the DOH report which showed that only PHP64 billion out of PHP91.283 billion had so far been disbursed.

The released fund for Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances (PHEBA) included some PHP73.26 billion to cover the claims of 653,295 qualified public and private healthcare and non-healthcare workers for their health emergency allowance or One Covid-19 allowance from July 1, 2021 to July 20, 2023.

The DBM also disbursed PHP12.90 billion for Special Risk Allowance (SRA), PHP3.65 billion for Covid-19 Sickness and Death Compensation, and PHP1.4 billion for other benefits, such as meal, accommodation, and transportation allowance.

Pangandaman said a total of PHP19.962 billion under the 2024 General Appropriations Act is also allocated for DOH’s arrears and pending claims.

“Yung budget po natin this year, ang ginagawa po natin (What we did to our budget this year is it) is comprehensively released. Binigay na po natin lahat 'yan sa DOH. So, sila po ang bahala mag-disburse (We gave it all to the DOH so it will be the one in charge of the disbursement),” she said.

Pangandaman said the DOH might consider the use of a blanket memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and private organizations to immediately address the issues on the release of the remaining unpaid HEA claims.

HEA mapping

Pangandaman also renewed her call on the DOH to finalize its HEA mapping to promote transparency and resolve issues on the supposed delay in the release of HEA claims.

She hoped that the HEA mapping would be completed “within the month”, stressing that it would be easier for the DOH to trace the health workers who have yet to receive their compensation.

"Meron na po silang link (They already have a link [for the HEA mapping]), pero ang sabi po sa amin (but they told us) that it is still a working document and subject for adjustment. Tapos, nag-promise po sila na aayusin nila 'yung link na 'yun. So, siguro po, bigyan natin sila ng oras (They also promised to fix the link. So, perhaps, let us give them some time),” Pangandaman said.

"Nag-request po ako na sana magkaroon po sila ng mapping – HEA mapping, para hindi po sila mahirapan sa listahan kung anu-ano po 'yung mga hospital. Kasi ang pinakamahirap po talaga, and nakikita ko rin po, is ‘yung pag-validate po nung mga hospitals tsaka ng mga pangalan (I requested for the HEA mapping so it would not be difficult for them to come up with a list of hospitals because the challenge here is validating the hospitals and names),” she added.

While HEA mapping is currently being finalized by the DOH, Pangandaman assured the healthcare workers of the government’s commitment to give them their unpaid benefits.

In a meeting held earlier this year with the DOH, the DBM suggested the development of HEA mapping that will capture and present all HEA claims and payments by region or health facilities.

The move is seen to help stakeholders, such as concerned agencies and healthcare workers monitor the status of HEA releases.

This will also aid in expediting the final determination of the actual amount of deficiency to cover the full settlement of arrears. (PNA)