Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is rallying his colleagues “to rescue the thousands of Department of Health jobs in peril” as the proposed 2017 budget for the DOH’s grassroots manpower deployment program will not be able to retain the number of personnel currently hired.
Recto said thousands of nurses, doctor, dentists will face the dreaded “endo” (end of contract) at the end of the year if Congress will not override the government’s plan to drastically downsize the number of frontline health personnel.
He said the Senate can explore many options “to save these jobs or at least cushion the effects of what amounts to be a mass retrenchment.”
“First, we can infuse funds. The 6,000 affected nurses alone would require something like P2 billion,” Recto said.
“We can also insert a provision in the national budget would state that the affected personnel should have first priority in being absorbed by other or new programs of the Rural Health Practice Program (RHPP),” he said, referring to the official name of the rural manpower assignment project.
Another option is to insert a “firewall” provision, exempting poor, distant towns from the personnel cuts, Recto said. “We can insist that the status quo be maintained for 3rd class to 6th class towns.”
Recto said he is working closely with and is in full support of the solutions being pursued by Health Secretary Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial on how to minimize the displacement “which was something that was merely imposed on the DOH.”
The proposed cut was triggered by the payroll ceiling given to DOH for 2017 which could not accommodate the retention of all RHPP personnel as it has to fund the second round salary increases for its regular personnel under the Salary Standardization Law IV.
Unless rectified, the number of doctors hired under the RHHP will be slashed by one-half, and nurses, by one-third.
Recto said that under the agency’s Doctor to the Barrios program, the number of physicians assigned to low-income towns will go down from 946 this year to 435 next year, or 511 fewer.
But it is in the deployment of nurses where the biggest cut is observed – from 15,727 this year to 9,349 in 2017, which means 6,378 nurses contracted under the Nurse Deployment Program will be axed.
The senator said the number of DOH-paid dentists who will be assigned to rural clinics will also be reduced from the 2016 level of 324 to 243 next year.
While fewer doctors, nurses and dentists will be dispatched, the number of medical technologists and midwives hired would stay at 308 and 3,100 respectively.
Overall, RHPP slots will be slashed from the current 21,118 to 18,825 next year.
To augment the number of health professionals in impoverished towns, the DOH pays for the salaries of those it has hired under the RHPP.
The good news is that the DOH will hire 2,587 UHC (Universal Health Coverage) Implementers and 2,803 Public Health Associates (PHAs) he said.
PHAs are either nurses or nursing associates who will be paid P19,000 a month.
UHC Implementers, on the other hand, can be any licensed health professional who will be given a salary of P26,000 a month or a doctor whose take-home pay is P56,000 monthly.
“The displaced personnel should be accommodated in the above programs,” Recto said. “And their pay should be augmented by local counterpart. Kung hindi lahat ma-absorb, then Congress should fund the deficit.”
RHPP’s proposed budget for 2017 is P7.03 billion.