Cut ‘most unkind’

October 13, 2019

Just think about it: We are losing world-class nurses and related healthcare service providers to other countries offering them premium salaries and benefits.

And just when the Universal Health Law is supposed to go full steam ahead, here we go pushing ahead with deep health budget cuts that would toss thousands of nurses and other health workers into the unemployment line, thereby crippling frontline medical services.

Can anyone please explain the logic – or more correctly the utter lack of it – in this situation?

It is the classic one step-forward, two-steps-back routine – a meaningless motion, a wanton waste of resources.       

Let Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto spell it out to you in words that could be understood by all: 7,107 public health nurses ang nangangambang mawalan ng trabaho sa susunod na taon. Kasing dami ng mga isla sa ating kapuluan.

“If not reversed, it would turn us into an archipelago of dismissed nurses. It is a kind of hospital discharge that is the most unkind,” Recto warned.

This is the effect of the proposed P9.39 billion cut in the budget of the Department of Health, from P97.65 billion this year to P88.26 billion next year, Recto said.

The proposed total DoH budget for 2020 seeks to include one attached agency; and subsidy to one corporation, four specialty hospitals, and to PhilHealth is P160.15 billion, still P9.3 billion lower than this year's P169.45 billion.

One of the major programs to be severely affected by the budget cut is the Human Resource for Health Deployment Program.

This year, HRHDP has a total budget of P12.37 billion - P8.5 billion with the DoH, plus P3.8 billion drawn from the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund, a DBM-controlled funding warehouse for personnel services expenditures.

For 2020, a measly P2.45 billion is proposed for HRHDP under the DoH budget, a deep P6.05-billion cut.

There is, however, a pledged augmentation of P7 billion from the MPBF. Adding the two would bring to P9.45 billion the possible funding for HRHDP.

"Possible," Recto said, because the release is subject to conditions, and not automatic.

The P2.45 billion under the DoH budget would only cover the continued employment of 3,854 nurses, out of the 17,293 deployed this year. Add the 6,322 nurses to be funded by MPBF and the potential total comes up to 10,186 hired and rehired in 2020.