Thousands of government nurses and other health personnel who are deployed in the country’s far-flung barangays from Batanes to Jolo stand to lose their jobs due to the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) move to cut the budget of the Department of Health (DoH), according to Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon.
“If we will just follow the proposed budget of the Department of Health, about 15,000 nurses and health professionals will lose their jobs,” Drilon said after grilling officials during the Senate hearing on the proposed P71 billion budget of the DoH.
“This is a vey serious concern. I have not seen in my 20 years in the Senate that a budget is slashed this much and the budget of the DoH at that,” Drilon said.
“This is injustice and I will not allow the budget to be passed unless this injustice is addressed,” Drilon added.
At the hearing, Drilon grilled a representative from the Department of Budget and Management for cutting the budget of the DoH by P36.2 billion from P107.3 billion in 2018 to P71 billion in 2019, particularly for health human resources deployment (HHRD) which was decreased from P9.59 billion in 2018 to P1.17 billion next year.
Dir. Jane Abella, a representative from DBM, argued that the budget was just transferred to Miscellaneous and Personnel Benefit Fund (MPBF) pending a review by the department and the Commission on Civil Service.
“Fifteen thousand nurses and health professionals will be on the streets while we are evaluating. Can you imagine the effect of this on our 15,000 workers and their performance? What kind of planning is this? Drilon asked.
Drilon said that it is not correct to transfer the funds of active government health personnel to MPBF, fearing it will not be released “without Malacanang’s clearance.”
Instead of reducing the number of health personnel, Drilon said that the DBM should regularize the 26,000 health workers, who are on job order status.
“You cannot have an ‘endo’ situation in the DoH, because the services will be affected. Let us regularize them so that we can provide stability to our health system,” Drilon said.
Drilon proposed that an errata be submitted by the DBM “in order to correct this injustice,” saying that it should not be the Senate scrambling to look for funds to restore the budget, which can be vetoed by the President.
Asked where to source the funds, Drilon said: “We have the budget. Even if we don’t have, reduce some other items in the budget in order to provide the budget for the DoH. Remove the fat in the budget in order to provide funds for the DoH.”
Drilon also questioned DBM’s move to reduce the DoH’s budget for health facilities enhancement program to P50 million in 2019 from the current level of P30.26 billion.
“This is something unusual that is why I am alarmed. This is something worrisome,” Drilon said.
The DBM representative pointed to DoH’s underutilization of the budget to justify the budget cuts.
To which Drilon replied: “So that is a punishment. The DoH should show to DBM that it can perform and if it doesn’t perform, we would just let the poor patients suffer?”
Drilon thus asked the DBM to submit an amendment to the budget to provide enough funds for the construction and maintenance of health facilities throughout the country. (via Senate website)