SENATE president pro tempore Ralph Recto yesterday said four out of 10 health personnel will likely lose their jobs due to the proposed P9.39-billion cut to the Department of Health’s 2020 budget.
In a statement, Recto bemoaned the proposed reduction of the DOH’s budget to P88.26 billion, from the current year’s P97.65 billion.
Citing the DOH’s estimates, Recto said 10,921 currently employed health personnel will be laid off next year, a scenario which he described as a “plague-like 40-percent casualty rate.”
Recto said one of the most severely affected programs will be the Human Resource for Health Development Program (HRHDP), whose budget will be slashed by 247 percent to P2.45 billion, from the current P8.5 billion.
This year, HRHDP has a total budget of P12.37 billion – P8.5 billion with the DOH, plus P3.8 billion drawn from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF), a funding warehouse for personnel services expenditures controlled by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The P2.45 billion under the DOH 2020 budget will only cover the continued employment of 3,854 nurses. On the other hand, the P3.8 billion MPBF augmentation can fund the hiring of 6,322 nurses.
The potential total nurses to be hired this year will come up to 10,186, still short of the 17,293 hired this year.
Recto said that under the best possible scenario, 7,107 nurses will still be given pink slips next year.
“If not reversed, it will turn us into an archipelago of dismissed nurses. It is a kind of hospital discharge that is the most unkind,” he said.
Recto warned the release of the MPBF allocations will not be automatic and will only be released subject to certain conditions.
Recto also said dentists and medical technologists under the HRHDP program will be reduced to zero, from the current 202 and 597, respectively.
To stop this dire situation from happening, Recto said the HRHDP budget should be increased to P16 billion and not dramatically decreased.
“We have to do this because the health professional deployment and dispersal program is one of the lynchpins of the Universal Health Care program. Thus, the UHC should be launched with a great leap forward in the number of doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, medical technologists and other health workers to unserved and underserved, poor and far-flung areas,” Recto said.
The proposed cut on the DOH’s HRHDP budget next year comes after the Supreme Court has ruled that public hospital workers are entitled to an entry-level salary of grade 15, which is equivalent to P30,531 every month.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon urged the Senate committee on finance to look for means to fund the increase in the salaries of government nurses.
“We should look for ways to provide the necessary funding to implement the Philippine Nursing Act which we passed when I was Senate President in 2002,” Drilon said in a statement on Thursday.
“There are excess fats in the P4.1-trillion 2020 spending outlay which we can use to augment the minimum base pay of thousands of government nurses in accordance with Republic Act 9173 and pursuant to the ruling of the Supreme Court,” he added.
Drilon said that there are around 7,193 authorized nurse 1 positions in government, which will entail additional P1 billion to implement RA 9173 starting 2020.
“If the government is willing to buy a P2 billion jet and if it can boldly ask Congress for a record-breaking P8.2 billion intelligence and confidential fund, I do not see any reason why we cannot fund the adjustment in the salary of our nurses,” he said.
Drilon identified three possible funding sources: the MPBF, the proposed budget for the postponed 2020 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections and some unutilized revenues from the sin tax law.
He stressed: “We owe it to our nurses who provide patients 24/7 health care in overcrowded government hospitals, which sometimes comes at the expense of their own health and well-being.”