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Senate OKs more benefits for COVID-19 front liners

By Vanne Elaine Terrazola

The Senate has approved the additional benefits and compensation for the country’s health workers who have since been in the front lines in the fight against the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Sen. Pia Cayetano delivers her sponsorship speech on Senate Bill 1418, the "Bayanihan to Heal as One Act" which seeks to provide assistance to poor and allow the government to adopt measures to suppress the spread of COVID-19. (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Pia Cayetano delivers her sponsorship speech on Senate Bill 1418, the “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” which seeks to provide assistance to the poor and allow the government to adopt measures to suppress the spread of COVID-19. (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN)

In a special session held Monday to tackle the proposed “Bayanihan to Heal as One Act” seeking to declare a national emergency and grant special powers to the President to solve the COVID-19 pandemic, senators included some provisions that will grant health workers more benefits while they are battling the dreaded disease.

Senate Bill No. 1418 was approved on third and final reading with 12 plenary affirmative votes, and no negative votes nor abstention.

Prior to the final approval of the bill, the Upper Chamber adopted into the measure a proposal of Senator Grace Poe to grant all public health workers a “COVID-19 Special Risk Allowance” in addition to their hazard pay as mandated by law.

Another section was included to require the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to shoulder all the medical expenses of health workers both in public and private hospitals in case they are infected with COVID-19, or any other work-related injury or disease during the national emergency.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, who raised the amendment, said the insurance would spare the Department of Health (DOH) from legal issues arising from giving health workers hazard pay twice. He also said the DOH’s P378 million fund for the hazard pay “would not be enough to cover all the health workers we have in the front lines.”

The Senate also considered the proposal of Senator Richard Gordon to give financial aid to those infected or who died of COVID-19 in the line of duty.

Under the Senate-approved bill, a P100,000 compensation shall be granted to public and private healthcare workers who will contract severe COVID-19 infection while in the line of duty, said Senator Pia Cayetano, the sponsor of the bill.

There shall also be a P1 million compensation to families of private and public health workers who may die while fighting the pandemic.

“And this provision shall have retroactive effect,” Cayetano said.

SB No. 1418 seeks to give President Duterte the “necessary and proper” powers to implement policies aimed at addressing the COVID-19 outbreak, including the realignment of government savings in the executive department to fund measures amid the health crisis.

The bill also wants to authorize the President to expedite the accreditation of testing kits and facilitate the prompt testing of persons believed to have contracted the COVID-19.

It also provides for the immediate procurement of personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves, goggles, and face shields; as well as essential surgical, laboratory, and other medical equipment and supplies, among others.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III earlier confirmed that three doctors who were treating COVID-19 patients died due to the disease.

Hospitals have also been reporting an increasing number of health workers and staff who already contracted the disease or had to go into quarantine due to their exposure to positive patients.

As of Monday, the number of COVID-19 cases rose to 462, 33 of them died, while 18 have recovered.



Source: Manila Bulletin

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