By Vanne Terrazola
At least 7,000 public nurses and other health workers are in danger of being laid off next year due to the P9.39-billion cut in the budget of the Department of Health (DOH), Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said Thursday.
“[A total of] 7,107 public health nurses ang nangangambang mawalan ng trabaho sa susunod na taon (might lose their jobs next year). Kasing dami ng mga isla sa ating kapuluan (As many as the number of islands in our country),” Recto said in a statement.
“If not reversed, it will turn us into an archipelago of dismissed nurses. It is a kind of hospital discharge that is most unkind,” he added.
The Senate leader blamed the proposed P9.39-billion cut in the DOH’s 2020 budget for this bleak scenario. The proposed budget for the DOH was reduced from P97.65 billion this year to P88.26 billion next year.
He said of one of the major programs to be severely affected by the budget decrease was the Human Resource for Health Deployment Program (HRHDP).
The HRHDP, for this year, has a total budget of P12.37 billion, P8.5 billion of which is with the DOH, while P3.8 billion is from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) of the Department of Budget and Management.
For 2020, Recto said only P2.45 billion was proposed for HRHDP under the DOH budget.
He said the proposed 2020 HRHDP fund will only cover the continued employment of 3,854 nurses, out of the total 17,293 deployed this year.
Recto said the proposed P7-billion 2020 MPBF could be tapped to augment the fund, but it is still uncertain because the release is subject to conditions by the DBM.
With the MPBF, Recto estimated that 7,107 nurses will still be displaced next year.
He said the budget reduction would not only affect government nurses, but also 202 dentists, 597 medical technologists.
“Lahat-lahat, tinataya ng DOH na 10,921 na health personnel who are currently employed by the program ang masisisante sa 2020 (In all, the DOH estimates that 10,921 health personnel will be fired in 2020),” Recto said.
Recto said a P16-billion raise in the HRHDP’s 2020 fund is necessary to prevent the layoff of public health workers.
“We have to do this because the health professional deployment and dispersal program is one of the lynchpins of the Universal Health Care (UHC) program. Thus, the UHC should be launched with a great leap forward in the number of doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, medical technologists and other health workers to unserved and underserved, poor and far-flung areas,” he said.
Recto has been rallying for the increase in the DOH’s 2020 budget.