Senator Sonny Angara
Senator Sonny Angara has been in public service for 15 years—9 years as Representative of the Lone District of Aurora, and 6 as Senator. He has authored and sponsored more than 200 laws. He recently won another term in the Senate.
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When fighting the good fight, even the best can be cut down. In this war we wage against the COVID-19 virus, our public and private health workers are holding the line. And sadly, we have experienced tragedies. As of April 6, 2020, according to the Philippine Medical Association, at least seventeen of our frontline doctors have fallen, giving their very lives to keep on treating people even though they knew they could probably be infected. We salute them, and recognize their heroic acts, thinking of others before themselves.
But we who can must still defend and support those who continue to risk their lives for their fellow citizens. Many other healthcare workers have fallen ill or are in quarantine, and many of our hospitals are now at their respective limits. And yet, if they can, they will still render aid, will still find a way to make sure a possible COVID patient receives proper treatment.
This is the reason why some of the provisions of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (RA 11469), which was recently signed into law by the President, will make sure that our healthcare workers will be taken care of, and given just compensation for their incredible efforts to keep COVID-19 from making even more of our fellow Filipinos ill.
First, all public health workers will receive a “COVID-19” special risk allowance. This will be in addition to the hazard pay granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers, also known as Republic Act 7305.
Second, since it is recognized that public and private healthcare workers will be in the disease’s line of fire, there is also a directive to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation to shoulder all medical expenses in case of exposure to COVID-19 or any work-related injury or disease, especially for those in the frontline.
Third, under the measure, among the special authorities granted to the President is to fast track the procurement of such items as personal protective equipment (PPEs) like gloves, gowns, masks, goggles, and face shields; medical supplies; laboratory apparatuses; ventilators; and others that are critical to the frontliners’ work. Hopefully, the difficult challenge of the lack of PPEs and other crucial supplies in our hospitals is something that the government will be able to surmount.
Fourth, public and private healthcare workers who contract the severe form of the COVID-19 infection in the line of duty will be compensated with P100,000. A compensation of P1 million will be given to the family of healthcare workers who have succumbed to the virus. This provision will be retroactively applied from February 1, 2020.
Finally, temporary Human Resources for Health—volunteers—will be engaged. This will include medical and allied medical personnel who will be added to the current health care workforce, performing duties such as maintaining and operating temporary medical facilities. Personally, I welcome the fact that similar to their government counterparts, these volunteers will be granted special risk allowances and other forms of financial compensation aside from their hazard pay.
We have a very long road ahead of us, and even with the other provisions in the Bayanihan Act that will provide funding for immediate healthcare services to COVID-19 patients, as well as assistance and basic necessities for those seriously affected by the enhanced community quarantine, we will still need the unified efforts of frontliners, government, and the people to stem the tide of this disease.
To the men and women in healthcare, we thank you for going well beyond the call of duty. I also call on the whole nation to support they who hold the line, for in unity, the Filipino will find the strength to survive. (30)