Facing an uncertain future under the economic enterprise regime, the Eastern Bicol Medical Center (EBMC) Employees Union is set to join the activist Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) in the next few months.
Last week, AHW Secretary General Robert Mendoza, who works at the corporatized Philippine Children’s Medical Center (PCMC), conducted an orientation for members of the employees group at the provincial hospital led by its president, Vicente Torno. His group would be back soon to assist the EBMC-EU in its accreditation with the Alliance.
According to Mendoza, the lack of medicines and supplies at EBMC is the same situation at the Bicol Regional Teaching and Training Hospital (BRTTH). He said that the country’s health services is in crisis today due to lack of budget, collection of fees at public hospitals including EBMC, rising cost of health services, and inadequate compensation of health workers, with many of them forced to use their own money to buy medicines for poor patients. At the Philippine General Hospital, he added, a budget cut has resulted in charity patients ending up paying for some services.
Despite the ideal nurse-patient ratio of 1:12 as per DOH guidelines, Mendoza bared that many nursee today serve as many as 50 to 120 patients each while their real wages, taking into consideration the rising cost of living, have shrunk to just P242 per day.
Many health workers today are overworked and underpaid, with no overtime and night differential pay, the AHW official stressed. Hospitals add to their bed capacity but does not hire additional personnel, he noted, while many health workers do not enjoy Compensatory Time Off (CTO) for duty rendered on holidays or rest days.
The Alliance, Mendoza disclosed, is strongly backing a bill at Congress providing for a salary of P24,000 a month for Nurse I and P15,000 for utility workers pursuant to the Magna Carta for Health Workers. “There is no reason for the government to claim it does not have the funds as it managed to accumulate P177 billion for its illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP),” he emphasized.
He warned that under the Private-Public Partnership (PPP) program of the Aquino administration, the DOH plans to privatize 72 public hospitals, including some provincial hospitals. There is even a move at the department to require public hospitals to source their Personnel Services (PS) and Maintenance and Other Operating Expenditures (MOOE) from the payments of their patients.
The 72,000-strong AHW is a national organization of health workers composed of individuals, groups. Associations and unions from different public and private hospitals, health institutions and agencies. It has led health workers in their successful campaigns for salary increases, better working conditions and the exercise of health workers’ right to self-organization.