THE government is now pushing for better pay and benefits for its medical workers in a bid to persuade them to stay put amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Department of Health (DOH) wants to raise the salaries for government nurses with higher positions to address prevailing wage distortion among their ranks.
This after the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the provision of Republic Act 9173, which states that the pay for entry-level nurses should be at least P30,000 or equivalent to salary grade (SG) 15, became final and executory last year.
The decision will make the salaries of entry-level nurses equal to those for the position of Nurse 2.
No legal basis
During an online forum hosted by the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) on Tuesday, Health Undersecretary Roger Tong-an said they will meet with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) soon to remedy the situation by proposing additional pay for those with the rank of Nurse 2 and those with subsequent higher positions.
He said they initially proposed raising the SG of Nurse 2 up to Nurse 7 by at least one level.
This means Nurse 2 will get SG 16, Nurse 3 with SG 17 and so on so forth.
However, DBM rejected these adjustments for having “no legal basis,” Tong-an said.
As a compromise, Tong-an said they agreed to retain the SG 15 Nurse 2 position, but he suggests these Nurses should still given a pay increase.
In their proposal, Nurse 1 with SG 15, will have a basic pay of P32,053, while Nurse 2 will be SG 15, but with increment of step 8, so they will get a pay of P34,801.
He hoped DBM will accept the proposal, although ultimately he said they are eyeing to raise the respective pay of those nurses with Nurse 2 to Nurse 7 positions though the passage of appropriate legislation.
Also at the meeting, FNU urged DOH to call on DBM not to pursue its plan to modify the existing position attributes, which they claimed downgraded those with Nurse 2 up to Nurse 7 positions through DBM Circular 2020-4.
FNU President Maristela Abenojar opposed the reclassification, saying it trivializes the times served by many senior nurses in the government.
Tong-an promised to ask the DBM to reconsider its plan to reclassify nurse positions.
Equal pay and benefits
There are also ongoing moves to improve the benefits of healthcare workers in the private sector, which lag behind those in the government.
In an online press briefing on Wednesday, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it will propose a bill to level the wages and benefits of private and private sector healthcare workers.
Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said this will be contained in a bill they will endorse to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) on Thursday.
“Hopefully, the IATF will have it [proposed bill] certified by the President,” Bello said.
Under the proposal, private sector medical employees will be get the same pay and benefits, including hazard pay, as those working in the public sector.
Healthcare worker retention
The measure aims to reduce the number of healthcare workers eyeing overseas work due to low pay, according to Bello.
“Whatever the amount is should be in the same level with that of nurses and medical workers in the public sector since they are facing the same hazard in exercising their profession,” Bello said.
He is confident private companies can afford the additional pay once it is legislated.
“These hospitals continue to earn and it is time for them to share their blessings to their workers,” Bello said.