Statements: Assert our right to living wage, increase hospital budget and end contractualization

By ALLIANCE OF HEALTH WORKERS — CORDILLERA
www.nordis.net

May 10, 2017

The only way that our rights as health workers are recognized and that of the patients we serve is to unite and march with militancy!

This 7th of May 2017, marks the 7th year that National Health Workers day was declared. A fitting tribute to the keepers of the nation’s health. It is also 34 years ago, that the Alliance of Health Workers (AHW), a progressive national organization of health workers’ unions, came into being. Today we pause to remember Luz Quesada, the first President of the AHW, who through her efforts worked for the inclusion in the 1987 Philippine Constitution of the peoples’ right to health. We also pay tribute to Emma Manuel, our President Emeritus who passed away last April 2017.

Seven years ago, Republic Act 10069, An Act Declaring May 7 of every year as “National Health Workers’ Day“ was enacted to give due recognition to the important role and contributions of the health workers. But until today the plight of the health workers remain dismal. Most of the benefits enjoyed today by the health workers were won through the arduous and steadfast struggles waged under the leadership of AHW.

Some of the victories won was the crafting of the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers or RA 7305 which is aimed at “improving the social and economic well-being of health workers, living and working conditions and terms of employment”; the retention of the National Orthopedic Hospital; and the latest achievement are the negotiations initiated by the AHW and the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) regarding the implementation of RA 10912 – Continuing Professional Development Act of 2016 on April 10, 2017. The oppressiveness of the CPD law was exposed and a new negotiated agreement with the Professional Regulation Commission was agreed upon. 

The AHW is not only the vanguard in the fight for the democratic and economic rights of the health workers but also for assertion of the people’s right to quality health care. 

Neoliberal Policies Attack on Health and Health Workers

The health situation of the nation is fast deteriorating as the government continues to implement the Health Agenda of the past administrations of upholding the neoliberal policies imposed by the World Bank-IMF and WTO as cost cutting measures in order for the Philippines to pay her debts. Even Pope Francis spoke of his rejection to the privatization of public health care as “transforming hospitals into businesses” or “industry of the disease”. 

Health care has become a big thriving business out of the misery of the masses. The commercialization of basic social services satiates the greed of the ruling class, while the government totally curtailed the basic right to health of its citizenry. The government maliciously washed its hands of its basic obligation to provide the basic health care services needed by the people. 

The privatization of government health care has also affected the security of tenure of the health workers. The current health system remains inaccessible and unaffordable to the vast majority of the masses, while its urban-centeredness and curative care approach is being perpetuated.  

In the region, the corporatization of the BGH is fast taking place. Contractualization is the new rule in the “hiring” of workers, these are Job Order hirings and the contracting of agency hired workers. Most of those hired as job orders are the nurses and the Hospital Operations and Patient Support Services Division (HOPSSD) workers while the agency hired workers fill the General Services Unit. Among the nurses 38 % of the rank and file nurses are job orders, while 29.62% of the HOPSSD workers are JOs.

The labor contractor is the Care Best agency. Both of the Job Orders and agency hired workers are stripped of the benefits due the regular workers, such as no work no pay, no vacation and sick leaves, no hazard fees and other benefits entitled to hospital workers, but they are required to pay income tax.

In a concrete incident last year, one of the job orders working at the General Services Unit met an accident while performing his duty. He sustained a leg fracture which incapacitated him for some months. He received no help from the hospital, given the fact that he worked more than 7 years in the hospital.  

Service contracting has also set in, the Fresinous Company operates the Dialysis Machines. The Cancer Institute which is programed to open in the second half of the year is also rumored to be operated by a private company. 

All these job and service contracting are clearly paving the way to the privatization of the BGH-MC. The city council after the hearing conducted in 2013 with the CHESTCORE and the officials of the BGH unanimously resolved to oppose the privatization of the hospital, but until now the city has failed to enact the needed resolution.

Meanwhile the health workers according to a survey conducted last year, identified the following oppressive working conditions they are in: overtime or extension of duty without pay, low wages, understaffing that results to multi-tasking, no immunization or protection against infectious and communicable diseases, political patronage in terms of hiring and promotion, inadequate and malfunctioning equipments and facilities and decreasing hospital supplies. 

Generally the workers are denied their economic and democratic rights as spelled out by the Magna Carta of Health Workers.  Salaries have not increased while ironically the prices of gasoline, basic commodities, and basic utilities are soaring.

Strengthen Our Ranks!We call on all health workers to join the Alliance of Health Workers. Militant struggle has proven to be the most effective way of bringing reforms. History taught us that only through organized, collective, solid and militant actions that we can achieve our advocacies and demands.

We laud Duterte’s call for resuming the peace talks with the NDFP, but at the same time we challenge him to resist his militarist advisers and continue the peace negotiations and honor the previous agreements such as the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantee (JASIG) and the Comprehensive Agreement on Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CAHRIHL). The negotiations on Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) and Political and Constitutional Reforms (PCR) address the socio-economic roots of the armed conflict. This will pave the way to peace and total change for the welfare of the nation, to a just and lasting peace. 

We call on all health workers to support the on-going peace talks.The peace talks shall tackle the economic and democratic rights of workers such as salaries, wages and other benefits and the increase in the budget for government hospitals.  

Together we shout:
Fight for the National Minimum Wage!
P16,000 monthly for public and P750 per day for private!
P25,000 for nurses upon entry!
P65,000 for doctors upon entry!
Regularize contractual workers!
Allot 5% of the GDP as prescribed WHO for the health budget! 
Stop the privatization of Baguio General Hospital & Medical Center! 
Fight for a free, comprehensive and progressive health care services! # nordis.net

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