Senator Christopher “Bong” Go on Wednesday urged colleagues to support the proposed 2022 national budget, particularly the amount allotted for the country’s Covid-19 pandemic response.
During the Senate Committee on Finance hearing on the proposed PHP157.5-billion budget of the Department of Health (DOH) and its attached agencies for 2022, Go stressed the need to include in the budget the allowances of the healthcare workers.
“Sa ating laban kontra Covid-19, isa sa pinaka-importante na dapat nating masigurado ay ang kapakanan ng ating healthcare workers (In our fight against Covid-19, one of the most important things we need to secure is the welfare of our health care workers),” Go said.
Under the proposed budget, Go said more healthcare workers will receive allowances.
“Hindi na limitado lamang sa mga directly exposed sa Covid-19 patients dahil nga hindi naman talaga natin alam kung sino ang exposed sa virus na ito. Hindi natin nakikita itong Covid-19, kailangang maisama po natin sa budget para dito (The allowances are not only limited to the healthcare workers who are directly exposed to Covid-19 patients because we do know with certainty who have been exposed),” Go added.
He also asked the committee chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano to ensure that enough funding is available for the implementation of President Rodrigo Duterte’s directive to increase the salary grade of Nurse II from Salary Grade 15 to 16.
“We do not want low morale among the ranks of our nurses. Nagsasakripisyo rin po ang mga ito. (They are sacrificing) We should thus provide them with better pay,” Go said.
Go also pushed for a higher budget of the Research Institute of Tropical Medicine (RITM) which is “our primary testing center at the start of the pandemic.”
“I distinctly remember that even prior to the pandemic I pushed for the increase of RITM’s proposed 2020 budget. With the support of the Senate, we increased the budget of RITM to PHP223.8 million. For 2021, we further increased the budget of RITM to PHP393.8 million,” he said. “Given its crucial role in addressing the pandemic, I am seeking your support for additional budget for the RITM,” Go said.
He also expressed concern over budget cuts for Epidemiology and Surveillance, and Health Emergency Preparedness and Response programs of the DOH.
“The decreases in the budget are lamentable considering that these programs are directly involved in our response to the pandemic and other infectious diseases. Mainly for these reasons, I urge the increase of funding for these programs,” he said.
He also called for additional funding for the One Hospital Command Center. which traffics patients to the appropriate hospital when needed.
“We should continue to support this program,” he said.
Go also noted the PHP45.4 billion in the Unprogrammed Fund for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccine booster shots.
“Importanteng paghandaan na po natin ito. Baka kailanganin natin ng booster lalo na dahil sa mga naglalabasang variants. (It is important that we prepare for this. We might need booster shots especially with the new variants). I believe Secretary Galvez and Secretary Duque are already studying the possibility of giving booster shots to our healthcare workers soon,” Go said.
He said the budget of some major hospitals like the Lung Center, Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, and Philippine Children’s Medical Center should also be increased. (PNA)