Health workers in the Philippines staged a protest decrying unpaid benefits and low wages as they grapple with record-breaking daily Covid-19 infections in the country.
Nurses and doctors from the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI) in Quezon City protested in front of their building on August 30, holding up placards calling for the ouster of Health Secretary Francisco Duque who currently faces accusations of corruption amid the health crisis.
The demonstrations came as the Philippines celebrated National Heroes’ Day.
Edwin Pacheco, president of the NKTI employees Association – Alliance of Health Workers, said: ‘If we are heroes for you, why has it been a year now that we are still here in the streets, calling and shouting for the immediate release of our hard-earned COVID-19 benefits?’
Medical workers who deal directly with Covid-19 are entitled to a special risk allowance of not more than 5,000 PHP or a little less than 100 USD for each month of service starting from December 2020 to June this year. Their allowance depends on how many days they were on duty.
Department of Health Spokesperson Maria Rosario Vergeire said: ‘We ask for a little more patience as we wait for the release of the funds.’
The Philippine health department has been criticised for its reported mishandling of 67 billion PHP worth of pandemic funds, as well as alleged anomalous deals with companies linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s former economic adviser Michael Yang.
Hospitals in the country are straining as the number of Covid-19 cases breached the two-million mark on Wednesday (September 1) with 140,949 infections currently active.