Senator fears “mass retrenchment” at DOH

MANILA — As thousands of public health personnel may face a possible “mass retrenchment”, a senator on Saturday urged his colleagues to take action to save these jobs or at least cushion the effects.

Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto made this call expressing alarm over how the proposed 2017 budget for a program of the Department of Health (DOH) will not be able to retain some public health personnel currently hired.

Recto said that the DOH’s Rural Health Practice Program (RHPP) would lead personnel to face the dreaded “endo” (end of contract) at the end of the year.

The proposed cut stemmed from the payroll ceiling given to DOH for 2017 which could not accommodate the retention of all RHPP personnel since it has to fund the second round salary increases for its regular personnel under the Salary Standardization Law IV.

Recto said that unless the law is rectified, the number of doctors hired under the RHHP will be slashed by one-half, and nurses, by one-third. The RHPP’s proposed budget for 2017 is Php 7.03 billion.

The only solution, he said, is that the Congress will override the government’s plan to drastically downsize the number of health personnel.

He proposed to Congress to infuse funds or insert a provision in the national budget which would state that the affected personnel should have first priority in being absorbed by other or new programs of the RHHP.

A third option is to insert a “firewall” provision, exempting poor, distant towns from the personnel cuts, particularly for 3rd class to 6th class towns.

The senator is currently working with DOH Secretary Paulyn Jean Rosell-Ubial on how to minimize the displacement.

“The displaced personnel should be accommodated in the above programs,” Recto said. “And their pay should be augmented by local counterpart. If not everyone can be absorbed, then Congress should fund the deficit.” Azer Parrocha/