Iligan’s health frontliners resign due to salary delays, lack SSS claims despite remittances

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ILIGAN CITY —– More than a dozen nurses assigned to the COVID ward of the local government unit (LGU) resigned on April 27 due to a four-month delay in their salary.

Their job is to look after COVID patients or returning residents who have a positive swab test result. They were assigned to the COVID ward, which is housed in the former National Steel Corporation (NSC) building in Barangay Suarez.

This is despite the fact that Iligan’s only infectious disease specialist has stated that the hospital COVID ward at the city’s only public hospital, the Gregorio T. Lluch Memorial Hospital (GTLMH), is already at capacity and can only be vacant if someone dies or recovers.

According to Dr. Leonell Quitos, three private hospitals that cater to COVID patients have to stop COVID admissions because they are understaffed, despite the fact that their capacity is not yet at capacity.

According to a nurse who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation, approximately 25 of them were hired by the LGU on March 29, 2020 with a contract of service for three months and a monthly salary of 49 thousand pesos.

The nurse stated that they were paid every three months.

“Grabe nga oppression” (the oppression was too much). We received 49,000 pesos per month for nine months, until December 2020. But in January, we were told that our salary would be reduced from 49 thousand to 32 thousand, and we said ‘that’s fine,’ but a week later, we were told that only 24 thousand would be paid because there was no more budget allocation,” the nurse explained.

According to the source, they were also deprived of benefits such as free food and a place to stay while on duty. Their kitchen, cleaning staff, and other crew were dragged out, and their food was no longer edible.

“Pakan-on ra ka’g sud-an nga bulad usa ka buok, itlog nga nilung-ag (we were given oned fish, one boiled egg). Our accommodations were not upgraded. We slept on the floor of the Macapagal Ancestral House, where we were billeted, for the first nine months. We don’t have any privacy because we stayed in the building’s main hall. Since the beginning of our work, we have not seen any dignity in our situation. We complained, but they did not listen, so we continued working. One of my coworkers has decided that after his shift as a COVID nurse, he will change his clothes and drive the vehicle to bring a patient to a hospital in Cagayan de Oro because the assigned driver is unavailable.

They also complaint that they don’t have remittances for their Social Security System payment despite the 2,000 deduction every month last year.

“Many of us were infected with COVID last year. No one from the LGU even bothered to text us for comfort or inspiration. They did not provide us with anti-viral medications such as remdesivir, nor did they send us nutritious foods. In the isolation facility, we must request that our families send us medicines and vitamins. We must place our own orders for food delivery. When many of us received COVID, no LGU took care of us. That is how we were treated by the local government who hired us to assist with the pandemic response,” the nurse explained. 

There were also days when their colleagues, who had already been tested positive but were asymptomatic, had to continue working because no one could replace them. Nobody took the job because of the risk, according to the nurse.

In March, the COVID ward where they were assigned was closed, and they continued their work at the Gregorio T. Lluch Memorial’s COVID unit.

City Coucilor Petronilo Pardillo, Committee Chairman on Finance of the Iligan City Council, stated that the nurses’ salaries have yet to be paid because the LGU is awaiting approval of the supplemental budget.

“The annual investment plan (AIP) with the 300 million pesos plus allocation has already been approved. In an interview with reporters, Pardillo stated, “This is where we will get the salary increase of more than 100 nurses.”

Vice Mayor Jemar Vera Cruz said in a recorded statement posted on his social media page that the nurses’ salaries were “forgotten” due to “errors” in budget preparation. 

“The department, particularly at City Hall, made this error as a result of the increase in the salaries of city hospital nurses. However, this does not imply that they are unimportant. So we make certain that the error is corrected,” Vera Cruz said.

Since the start of the pandemic last year, Iligan City had recorded 1,755 confirmed cases as of May 11. After beginning to rise in April, the number of active cases has now risen to 185.

According to data from the city’s Emergency Operations Center Health Cluster, 97 people have died since the pandemic began in 2020.

The City Health Office announced three cases of P3 variants in March. In February, the patients tested positive.

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