The government scrambled to address the mounting complaints of health workers and the recent claim of a group of nurses that coronavirus wards in several hospitals were understaffed.
The Department of Health (DoH) has given assurances that it had taken steps to address the shortage of health personnel as the country continues to grapple with the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DoH continues to hire healthcare professionals to assist those deployed in Covid wards.
“We continue supporting them, and we have intensified the hiring of healthcare professionals so that there would be additional people in hospitals,” Vergeire told reporters at a media forum.
Her statement came after Filipino Nurses United (FNU) President Maristela Abenojar told Manila Times that some medical facilities had shortened the quarantine period for exposed medical staff to five or seven days instead of the required 14-day quarantine period.
“There are even cases when hospitals pull out nursing staff in regular wards and deploy them to Covid wards, then they get deployed back to non-Covid wards without undergoing quarantine.
That’s alarming,” she said in a radio interview.
The strain in the medical sector became evident last week when health personnel held a silent rally to protest the “deplorable” conditions endured by workers.
Nurses and other medical frontliners left their slippers near the flagpole of the San Lazaro Hospital to protest the lack of personal protective equipment, which in turn exposes them to the deadly respiratory disease, and the non-implementation of regular testing for them.
The Alliance of Health Workers said other hospitals joined San Lazaro health personnel in their silent protest.
Vergeire said Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd had ordered the administrators of government hospitals to hold dialogue with health workers.
“Dialogues are continuing and we assure them that the needs of health workers are being met,” she added.
Meanwhile, the FNU lauded the release of an order increasing the salaries of nurses in the public sector but it also criticised certain provisions in the order.
The Department of Budget and Management issued an order increasing the salary of those occupying Nurse 1 positions to P32,053.
“It is not fair that the rest of 48,316 national nurses won’t be receiving any pay increase and yet they have been strapped off their well deserving regular positions.
To cite an example, a nurse who has been a Nurse 1 for 12 years, and was promoted three years ago as Nurse 2, would be a Nurse 1 again,” the group said.
The group also called for a salary increase for nurses working in private hospitals, whom they said were receiving an average of P10,000 a month.
“It is just unbelievable that the government can do this to the nursing profession at this time of extreme sacrifice and huge responsibility. We still hope that we are wrong but if not, this is just another concrete example of gross neglect and outright disrespect for our profession. We denounce this gross neglect of our right to a safe work environment and this threat to further violation of our labour rights,” the group said.
Healthcare workers get ready for their duty donning the personnel protective equipment.