By Joseph B.A. Marzan
The Iloilo Provincial Health Office (IPHO) on Wednesday clarified that health care workers (HCWs) entitled to receive the national government’s One COVID-19 Allowance (OCA) would have to direct their concerns to the Department of Health-Western Visayas Center for Health Development (DOH-WV CHD), which currently holds the funds.
In a statement, IPHO chief Maria Socorro Quiñon said that OCA funds downloaded from the health department’s central office remained with the DOH-WV CHD.
“The funds are with the [DOH-WV CHD], not downloaded to the provincial government, as alleged by people who [called 8888]. The DOH is doing the payroll after completing the requirements including daily time records, Landbank [accounts] or [special power of attorney] where the OCAs will be loaded into,” Quiñon explained.
8888 refers to the hotline number provided by the national government for complaints and concerns against government agencies and local government units.
Quiñon said that OCAs for January and February have been processed by the DOH-WV CHD, and might be released today, Dec. 22, or tomorrow, Dec. 23.
She added that they have been combing through requirements for the March and April OCAs.
“The documents are now with the [DOH-WV CHD]. [On Tuesday], according to the [DOH-WV CHD]’s human resources, they have released OCAs for January and February payrolls. These will still go through four offices, and hopefully by [Thursday] or Friday,” she said.
Quiñon also refuted allegations that OCA releases would be lumped in 6-month payments, except for the months of January to April 2022.
“The downloaded funds are only up to April. Hopefully, all 1,237 [HCWs], including vaccinators and PHO and [municipal health office] staff would have their requirements processed for March [and] April,” she said.
A press release from the provincial government referred Quiñon’s statements to two complaints lodged with the national government’s 8888 hotline regarding the delayed release of OCAs for health workers in the province.
Daily Guardian has reached out to the DOH-WV CHD for its response to the IPHO and provincial government’s statements and we were told that they would respond soon.
OCA is a COVID-19 benefit for public and private HCWs and non-HCWs involved in the pandemic response in all health facilities, including military hospitals, government-owned and controlled corporations, state university hospitals, and licensed private health facilities.
Under Joint Circular No. 2022-01 by the DOH and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), payment of the OCA is based on the Risk Exposure Classification of HCWs and non-HCWs, categorized into High (P9,000), Moderate (P6,000), and Low (P3,000) risk.
The computation of the actual OCA is based on the number of hours physically reporting for work during the month, as certified by the facility head, reckoned starting on January 1 this year.
It was included in the special provisions of the Department of Health’s budget under Republic Act No. 11639 (General Appropriations Act of 2022).
This was replaced later in May by the Health Emergency Allowance (HEA) under Republic Act No. 11712, (Public Health Emergency Benefits and Allowances for Health Care Workers Act), which grants HCWs mandatory continuing allowance during COVID-19 and other future public health emergencies.
The DBM released P7.92 billion of the allocated P18.7 billion for the OCA last February 14 to cover 995,671 eligible OCA claims, and another P11.5 billion last October 5 to cover the unfunded portion of 2.61 million OCA and HEA claims as of Sept. 5, according to a Philippine News Agency report.