Amid reports of budget cuts for Department of Health (DOH) that will result to job losses, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) clarified that they intend to give permanent and contractual positions to government health workers in 2019.
Some lawmakers previously warned that thousands of nurses, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, medical technologists who were currently employed under the DOH Human Resource for Health Deployment Program (HRHDP) after seeing the reduction in the health department’s proposed budget for next year.
Senator Franklin Drilon joined the DOH budget hearing in the upper chamber to question the ‘deep cut’ of about P36.2 billion. The HRHDP budget get slashed by over P8 billion, from P9.59 billion in 2018 to P1.17 billion next year.
“If we will just follow the proposed budget of the Department of Health, about 15,000 nurses and health professionals will lose their jobs,” Drilon said.
“This is a vey serious concern. I have not seen in my 20 years in the Senate that a budget is slashed this much and the budget of the DOH at that,” Drilon said.
The same concern were raised by Senators Nancy Binay, Grace Poe, and JV Ejercito, who chairs the Committee on Appropriations.
DBM explained that the reduction was due to under-utilization of the funds. Actual disbursement for HRH in FY 2017 was 77.44%, or P6.4 billion out of the P8.3 billion appropriations. This means the DOH was not able to fill all positions as funded in the General Appropriation Act (GAA).
Budget secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said that budget for the HRHDP, which allows government to contract the services of medical professionals, decreased only by 6.18% or P594 million, from P9.6 billion in the 2018 GAA to P9.006 billion in the 2019 NEP.
HRDP budget was not slashed, but the amount of P7.8 billion is lodged under the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund (MPBF) for the conversion of Job Order items to permanent and contractual positions.
“The DOH budget is actually bigger than what they have been able to spend in the past. We are giving them P9.0 billion compared to the P6.4 billion they actually utilized in FY 2017,” Secretary Diokno said.
“This will give our health professionals job security and full benefits for their service. We are doing this to be able to deliver a higher standard of health service to the Filipino people,” Secretary Diokno said.
But Drilon maintained that it is not correct to transfer the funds of active government health personnel to MPBF, fearing it will not be released “without Malacanang’s clearance.”
“Fifteen thousand nurses and health professionals will be on the streets while we are evaluating. Can you imagine the effect of this on our 15,000 workers and their performance? What kind of planning is this?” Drilon asked.