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Budget reallocation delayed COVID-19 sickness, death benefits for health workers —DOH

The distribution of financial assistance to COVID-19-stricken health workers was delayed due to the exploration and reallocation of budgets for the fund, the Department of Health (DOH) said Thursday.

In a press briefing, DOH Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said that the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act states that the fund for the cash assistance should come from realigned budgets.

“Nakalagay doon sa ating batas, kailangan doon sa realigned funds kukunin siya kaya kailangan talaga nating maghanap,” Vergeire said.

Aside from reallocation, Vergeire also attributed the delay to the exploration of other budgets, such as those of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to cover the funding.

However, Vergeire said, the process would have been more complicated if the budgets had come from these government-owned companies. “Ito rin ay natigil,” she said.

“In summary, ating in-explore ‘yung iba’t ibang posibilidad para magawa natin itong sinasabing probisyon na ito ng batas kaya medyo tayo ay nagtagal,” Vergeire said.

Most of the funds were taken from DOH's budget for other programs, which they moved to the third and fourth quarter of the year.

Vergeire said that none of the priority programs—including immunization, family planning, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) response, and tuberculosis treatment—had their budgets slashed.

According to Vergeire, Health Secretary Francisco Duque has already signed the joint administrative order with the Budget and Labor Departments to implement Section 4(f) of the Bayanihan law.

She said they are still waiting for the signature of the two departments.

Section 4(f) of Bayanihan law mandates a P1-million cash benefit  to the family of each health care worker who dies of COVID-19 after contracting it in the line of duty

Health care workers in severe and critical condition due to the virus will receive P100,000 each.

As of now, Vergeire said, the benefit will be given to the families of the 32 health care workers who have died of the disease.  Initially, DOH said they obtained the details of 16 health care workers only. 

Only nine of the families are now in coordination with the department for the required documents to claim the P1-million benefit.

The DOH has listed 79 health care workers suffering from COVID-19, with 60 severe patients and 19 in critical condition.

On Thursday, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a televised briefing that President Rodrigo Duterte gave government officials until June 9 to distribute the financial assistance to COVID-19-stricken health workers.

“Galit po ang Presidente. Galit, frustrated at ngayon ko lang po nakita na talagang medyo uminit ang ulo ng Presidente nung nalaman niya na matapos ang tatlong buwan ng Bayanihan [to] Heal as One Act ay hindi pa rin nabibigay,” Roque said.

“Binabalaan ko po ang mga otoridad: sumunod po tayo dahil ngayon ko lang po nakita na ganyan kainit ang ulo ng ating Presidente,” he added. — BM, GMA News