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Marcos on nurses' benefits: Sa palagay ko, kulang pa 'yan

President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. on Thursday agreed that benefits accorded to nurses are not enough considering their services and sacrifices to ensure the health of the public.

Speaking at the 100th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Nurses Association, Marcos said as of August 19, 2022, the government has disbursed P25.82 billion worth of benefits for nurses.

"Sa palagay ko kulang pa 'yan eh. Medyo hirap tayo sa pondo ngayon kaya't sa ngayon ganyan lang muna. Pero palagay ko binubuhay niyo 'yung may sakit eh. Ibang usapan 'yan, mahirap lagyan ng dolyar, ng piso, 'yung trabahong ginagawa ninyo," he said.

(For me, those are not enough. That's because we don't have sufficient funds. But I think, since you are in charge of everybody's health, no amount of money could compensate what you do.)

Marcos said present benefits afforded to nurses include hazard duty pay, COVID-19 sickness and death compensation, meals, accommodation and transportation allowances, life insurance, Special Risk Allowance (SRA) and COVID-19 allowance.

Marcos also praised the nurses' sacrifices during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Hindi lang kayo nag-aalaga ng pasyente kundi noong panahon ng kabigatan ng COVID, noong 2020, 2021, eh kayo'y pumapasok pa rin kahit alam ninyong high risk ang inyong trabaho, sige pa rin... marami sa inyo ay talagang tinamaan, marami sa healthcare workers ay nawala dahil nga hindi na nga umuuwi sa bahay para hindi madala 'yung sakit sa kanilang mga pamilya," he said.

(You don't just only take care of patients. During the height of the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, you still went to work despite knowing that your health was also at risk. Many healthcare workers got sick, a lot did not go home to spare their families from the illness.)

Health workers from both government and private hospitals and health institutions have repeatedly complained about the non-release of their SRAs and the removal of their other benefits, such as meal and transportation allowances even as they continue to be at the frontlines of the COVID-19 battle.

PNA hopeful

Interviewed by reporters, PNA president Melvin Miranda said nurses have not received the benefits that Marcos said have already been disbursed.

He, however, is hopeful that everything will be threshed out following their dialogue with Marcos.

"Hindi pa po pero 'yun nga po dahil po tayo po ay makikipagdayalogo sa kanya, so probably doon maiaayos lahat, one by one..." Miranda said.

(Not yet, but we will hold a dialogue with him regarding these benefits.)

Asked if these include those allowances not yet given during the Duterte administration, Miranda answered in the affirmative.

'My office is always open'

Marcos, meanwhile, guaranteed that the government recognizes and acknowledges the hard work and sacrifices of nurses. He said the Filipino nurses show a "strong and capable nursing force that is at the forefront of quality and excellent care, not only here in the country but around the world."

He ensured that the Office of the President is open for dialogues to tackle the concerns of nurses and other healthcare workers.

"As your President, you may rest assured that my office is always open for meaningful dialogue to address the issues concerning our nurses and allied healthcare professionals," Marcos said.

"In fact, I have taken special note of the clamor to address issues in the nursing profession by the passage of the new Philippine Nursing Practice Act," he added.

Marcos said his administration would also address the "disparity" between the salaries of nurses working in public and private hospitals, adding that the uneven distribution of nurses across the country will be fixed too.

"This Executive department, together with Congress, will work with you to achieve these goals. As part of our goal to raise the profile and improve the working condition of nurses, we seek to address the disparity in salaries between nurses in government hospitals with those in the private sector," he said.

"In order to do that, we have to address issues related to health facilities, benefits, and security of tenure. As we work hard to improve the state of our healthcare system at home, let us join hands to maintain our country’s position as the gold standard when it comes to providing healthcare workers to hospitals and health facilities globally," he added.

The Nursing Certification Program, the Primary Care Workers’ Certification Program, the leadership development courses for public nurses, and the in-service post-graduate scholarship program are among the projects which will be continued by the Marcos administration to ensure the nurses' welfare, he said.

Aside from celebrating the 100th foundation anniversary of Philippine Nurses Association, the event, held at the Manila Hotel, was also for the observance of the 65th Nurses Week.  —KBK/RSJ, GMA News