Rally around the oppressed healthcare workers
Today marks the last day of the deadline given by healthcare workers to Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Health (DOH) Sec. Francisco Duque III, to heed their demands for their long-denied special risk allowance and other benefits. We join the Filipino people in applauding the health workers for their display of militance and determination to fight against their oppressive conditions and assert what is rightfully theirs, especially as they play an invaluable role during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Billions of unspent and misused funds by the DOH as reported by the Commission on Audit (COA) reflects the Duterte regime’s mistreatment and contempt of healthcare workers. They are forced to work in oppressive and detestable conditions, many compelled to work beyond normal working hours.
There are reports of nurses and other healthcare workers resigning in droves over sheer exhaustion and a desire to seek other opportunities to earn better compensation. Around 40 percent of private hospital nurses have quit their jobs. We can only blame the Duterte regime and the big capitalist hospital owners for the resignation of nurses and other health workers who have long been ill-treated and neglected. This utter neglect of health workers is forcing some organizations to stage a mass resignation in protest.
Because of the failure of the Duterte regime to allot sufficient funds to extend the public health system, hospitals and other medical facilities are now overstretched. The DOH failed to recruit more nurses and staff to beef up its hospital personnel. It has offered measly compensation for “volunteers” who give care to Covid-19 patients. Recently, the Philippine General Hospital, Philippines’ top hospital for Covid-19 patients, has begged off from receiving patients to its emergency ward since August 24.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the decades of neglect of the healthcare system. One regime after another allowed public hospitals to become dilapidated, health equipment and facilities outdated, and healthcare workers underpaid and oppressed.
Healthcare workers’ unions from various hospitals have started their week-long protests which is set to culminate on September 1. Democratic and progressive organizations must join them in pushing the government for support.
People’s organizations can show solidarity by waging protests from their communities, mount assemblies in universities and offices, ring bells and sign petitions in support of the struggle of health workers, as well as to manifest the demands of the people for free mass testing and expansion of pandemic health measures, as well as for higher wages, jobs and subsidies.