Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go underscored the need to ensure that sufficient funding is available to sustain and further enhance efforts to overcome the Covid-19 pandemic. The proposed budget of the Department of Health for 2022 was deliberated on during a hearing by Finance Subcommittee “D” presided by Sen. Pia Cayetano on Wednesday, October 13.
In his manifestation during the hearing, Go, who serves as Chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Vice Chair of the Senate Committee on Finance, particularly called for the inclusion of additional resources to ensure the continuous provision of allowances for the country’s healthcare workers (HCWs).
Go reiterated his appeal for the passage of a measure he co-sponsored which provides for a fixed monthly allowance to HCWs throughout the duration of the current state of emergency.
Senate Bill No. 2421 takes into consideration an earlier bill that Go authored and provides a Covid-19 Risk Allowance in lieu of the special risk allowance, active hazard duty pay, life insurance, and other allowances granted under Bayanihan 2. All HCWs deployed in “low risk areas” will be given P3,000; those in “medium risk areas” will be given P6,000; those in “high risk areas” will be given P9,000.
“Sa ilalim ng panukalang ito, mas maraming healthcare workers na ang makakatanggap ng allowances. Hindi na limitado lamang sa mga directly exposed sa Covid-19 patients dahil nga hindi naman talaga natin alam kung sino ang exposed sa virus na ito. Hindi natin nakikita itong Covid-19, (kaya) kailangang maisama natin sa budget para dito,” appealed Go.
In line with this, Go also called for the adequate provision of funds for the implementation of a directive of President Rodrigo Duterte which increased the salary grade of Nurse II positions from SG 15 to SG 16.
Research and Epidemic Surveillance
Given its crucial role in addressing the pandemic, Go likewise sought support for additional funds for the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine which is the pioneer testing center in the country.
“We all know that the RITM was our primary testing center at the start of the pandemic. Naalala ko nga noong 2019 ‘yon pa ang binawasan at nagkataon ito pa ang isa sa pinakaimportanteng opisina ng DOH. Hindi natin akalain na ang RITM na po nauna na nakapag-conduct ng test,” he said.
He earlier fought for additional budget for RITM prior to the start of the pandemic to increase it to P223.8 million for 2020 and P393.8 million for 2021.
Go also called for greater budget allocations for the Epidemiology and Surveillance and the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response programs of the DOH as well as the One Hospital Command Center (OHCC), all of which are crucial to the government response to the pandemic and other infectious diseases.
“Ang OHCC (ang umaalalay) sa mga pasyente para malaman kung saan bang ospital ang may bakante pang kama. Sila ang isa sa pinaka-importanteng opisina ngayon na nagta-traffic ng lahat ‘dahil gusto ma-accommodate. Hindi na nila kailangan maghintay sa labas ng ospital dahil dito mas nagiging maayos ang referral ng mga pasyente,” he said. (SPH/AQP)