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Solon proposes GAA provision to safeguard public nurses

QUEZON CITY (17 September 2020) — Quoting a Supreme Court decision which affirmed a provision of the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 providing a minimum base pay of not lower than Salary Grade 15 for nurses working in the public health institutions, House Deputy Speaker and Misamis Occidental 2nd District Representative, Henry S. Oaminal questioned a Department of Budget and Management (DBM) circular modifying positions of public nurses during the budget deliberations for the Department of Health (DOH) on Monday.

According to Oaminal, the Supreme Court, in its November 13, 2019 decision in “Ang Nars Party List, represented by Cong. Leah Primtiva G. Samaco-Paquiz, et al., Petitioners, vs. The Executive Secretary et al., Respondents, G.R. No. 215746”, affirmed Sec. 32 of Republic Act No. 9173 or the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002.

The deputy speaker of the 18th Congress added that Oaminal in the General Appropriations Act for 2020, three billion pesos was provided in the Miscellaneous Personal Benefits Fund which was earmarked for this particular decision. Thus, in the President’s Budget Basis for the 2020 Budget, President Rodrigo Duterte mentioned the implementation of the salary adjustment subject to the issuance coming from the DBM. DBM, as a response to this development, then issued in July 17, 2020 its Circular 2020-4.

However, the congressman pointed out some issues on the DBM Circular noting that while it upgraded the salary grade of nurses in the public sector, it had some modifications in the position attributes of the nurse positions and that the modifications downgraded the positions of the said healthcare workers.

In light of the pandemic, the legislator sought for protection of the welfare of nurses calling for

Before responding to the issue, DOH Secretary Francisco Duque III, acknowledged the substantial contribution of our nurses in the government’s response to the pandemic and called them ‘heroes of the day.’

On the other hand, DOH Undersecretary Roger P. Tong-an explained that when DBM handed them a copy of the circular, they saw that there was an issue as to the position of Nurse II which is SG 15 as Nurse I is also SG 15. Thus, in a meeting with DBM, DOH suggested for Nurse II to be provided with SG 16. However, DBM explained to DOH that they cannot do that as there are still government doctors and lawyers with Salary Grade 16.

Another suggestion that DOH made to DBM is for Nurse II to be automatically promoted to Step 8 in their salary so that there will be a salary difference between Nurse I and Nurse II. Thus, Nurse I will receive a basic monthly salary of Php 32,053.00 while Nurse II will have a basic monthly salary of at least Php 34,000.00.

As the promotion of the salary grade of government nurses is retroactive, Nurse II will be promoted to Nurse III. However, the DBM has yet to respond to this proposal from DOH.

Tong-an added that they are currently amending the roles of the nurses in the public sector to avoid overlapping of functions.

Further, the DOH official added that according to DBM, they have no legal basis to amend the Salary Grade of Nurse III to Nurse VI and that if the salary grades of other nursing positions will be increased, such as the Salary Grade of Nurse VI, it will already be equivalent to the salary grade of the medical director of a hospital which requires for a Career Executive Service Examination (CESO) certification.

Tong-an, however, assured the Appropriations Committee that they will do their best to continue negotiating with DBM to ensure the protection of our nurses’ welfare, particularly for nurses holding Nurse III to Nurse VI positions.

Oaminal suggested to DOH and the committee that Congress may provide the legal basis in the 2021 fiscal budget to ensure full implementation of the law as to the salary of government nurses provided a recommendation from DOH can be obtained by the House so that proper recommendations can be submitted to the plenary.

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