SENATOR Joel Villanueva has asked authorities to ensure that contact tracers it is hiring are paid on schedule, saying these workers look after their families’ needs and cannot afford to be mired further in debt.
Villanueva, chair of the Senate labor committee, issued the statement following reports that some contact tracers the Department of Health (DOH) hired between May and June this year have not received their salaries despite rendering the work already. Their contracts are about to expire at the end of this month.
“Nakakabahala po itong ulat na hindi pa rin nababayaran ang ilan sa mga contact tracer na naglilingkod sa DOH. Kaya po siguro tayo nahihirapan kumuha ng mga manggagawa kasi hindi po natin sinusuklian ng pagpapahalaga ang kanilang serbisyo,” Villanueva said.
“Kung may pagkukulang man sa mga requirement nila na dokumento, tulungan po natin silang punuan iyon habang ginagampanan nila ang tungkulin sa paghagilap ng mga contact ng COVID-positive patients,” he added.
“Because of this problem coming into light, we are not surprised anymore that very few of our healthcare workers in general are not heeding the call of DOH to join their ranks,” continued the lawmaker, who likewise reiterated his call to lift the deployment ban on nurses.
Villanueva said that health authorities should improve the pay and the terms of employment for nurses, who are part of the prevailing deployment ban on healthcare workers. From the 600 nurses directly affected by the ban issued in April, the number has grown to 2,000 nurses.
At the recent Senate labor committee hearing on the issue, the DOH disclosed that the estimated number of healthcare workers needed by the government was about 16,500, and only 7,850 out of the approved 10,468 slots have been filled so far.
Some of the contact tracers under the health department’s epidemiological bureau complained about the delayed salaries, saying it has already affected their abilities to provide for their families.
Villanueva said the plight of contact tracers was unacceptable, considering that the work they do helped policymakers determine the spread of the disease.
“The least we could do to our contact tracers is to ensure they are paid on time. There should not be any further delay with their salaries considering that short time of their engagement,” the lawmaker said.
Villanueva also asked the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which began its effort to hire some 50,000 contact tracers after the Bayanihan 2 was signed into law recently, to improve the processing of applicants so that their manpower complement would not have to wait for months to receive their salaries.
“We hope the DILG takes heed from the experience of the contact tracers at the DOH considering that it will be hiring around 50,000 workers and they will be coming from different local government units,” the lawmaker said.