Health Sec. Francisco Duque told senators on Wednesday that he would look for room in his department's savings to fund the special risk allowance for health workers who complained of delays in its release.
Health workers who are feeling the strain of the COVID surge are entitled to the special allowance of P5,000 per month. However, the P9 billion that the Department of Budget and Management allocated for it can no longer be distributed as the law that authorized the amount lapsed last June 30.
"Certainly, we will look into freeing up some of the funds. Aayusin namin. I cannot give you the clear answer right now because we have to look into it kung paano namin mai-realign," Duque said during a Senate hearing.
Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of the Filipino Nurses United, told senators that many of her colleagues who cater to COVID-19 patients have not been receiving their special risk allowance.
Sen. Richard Gordon said that all healthcare workers should be given special risk allowance regardless if they are directly caring for COVID-19 patients or not.
"The general statement should be kapag nasa ospital ka, you are in a dangerous area. Hindi ba dapat ang interpretation, we will give you basta nagtatrabaho ka sa ospital?" he asked.
Duque said the DOH pushed to give all health workers a special risk allowance when the law was being crafted.
"It's very difficult to differentiate healthcare workers who are in direct contact with COVID patients when we know the COVID virus is airborne. So talagang pwedeng umikot yan at lahat ng tao sa ospital ay pwedeng tamaan," he said.
Sen. Franklin Drilon suggested including the funding for the special risk allowance in the 2022 budget.
Sen. Sonny Angara said that while some provisions in the Bayanihan to Recover As One had lapsed, health benefits intended for health workers may still be granted as long as the state of national emergency is still in effect. He is the author of the law.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan recently filed a measure institutionalizing the benefits for health workers directly treating patients affected by a disease causing a public health emergency.