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August 25, 2011

Who Will Save The Doctor To The Barrio?

I am a former doctor to the Barrios, one of many deployed by the Department of Health. Although I am no longer a doctor to the barrios (DTTB), I am still updated with the current issues surrounding present DTTB's. Being a member of the DTTB Foundation, organized by alumni of the DTTB Program of the Department of Health, I still keep in touch with other DTTB's, most especially those I happened to meet during my stint as DTTB. Nothing has chaned mech though. The DTTBs of today are still encountering the same problems the DTTB's of my time encountered. In fact, I wrote a lengthy blog entry regarding the lamentations of DTTB's (which by the way was nominated in the Top Ten Posts of The Year for 2009 by the Philippine Blog Awards). Until recently, another issue came up with the DTTB's, regarding the hazard pays they have been receiving. Let me say that this issue is no longer new. In fact, it is the hottest topic of debate during our final days as DTTB's when representatives from the DOH discussed this issue with us DTTB's during one of our CME's (my batch's final CME). It seemed that since then, the issue remains unresolved. Let me just share one of the posts of a fellow DTTB who finally became so fed up with this seemingly lack of appreciation of our Philippine government to our Doctors to the Barrios:

This post is from Doc Lei who recently finished her contract with DOH as DTTB.
"I posted something out of sheer frustration earlier today. The Commission on Audit ruled that rural doctors and other DOH officials were over-compensated for their HAZARD PAY. And because of this, I didn't receive a single centavo upon separation, and I am being asked to pay P17,000 more. I was told, that if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the appeal filed by the DOH, the money will be returned to us.

Later on, I found out that my other colleagues suffered the same fate. And the younger doctors are heading towards the same gloomy direction.

After thinking hard, I had to delete my facebook rant post, and trust that those who are concerned are working on the issue. I do not want to be labelled as mukhang pera. Because definitely I am not. I love this country, and I believe something can be done in a rational, civilized way.

I just feel bad for all the health workers who need to struggle and fight for their rightful HAZARD PAYS.

I helped my rural health unit staff lobby for their hazard pay when I was with them. I hope somebody higher would lobby for all the rural health workers too.

I hope those concerned in the Supreme Court could arrive at a decision to compensate rural doctors justly."

Doc Lei was referring to this earlier post, "I was a doctor to the barrio, and COA just told me I need to return P17,000 to the government. This is after they took P 59,000 from what I was supposed to receive. They said sobra daw pala kasi ang hazard pay namin kaya lahat kami ganito ang sasapitin. Do you know anyone from the media who might want to research on this? I am desperate for an explanation. I posted this on my wall when I got the news today. I didn't want to do this pero sobra na kasi. I don't know kung hanggang saan ito makakarating pero ngayon pa lang humihingi na ako ng suporta ninyo. Let's fight this, kahit sabihin pa nilang constitutional. Kaya nga may supreme court appeal eh."

Doc Lei is not alone when it comes to this experience regarding hazard pays and separation pays. After posting this in the facebook page of the DTTB foundation, a lot of other DTTB's shared their own experiences.

Doc Celna, for example, wrote, "I also tried to question nga din when I received my terminal pay for my last contract. I was told na around 88k+ before mapunta sa COA, nung lumabas na, around 40 wid some additional na pumasok na di ko rin alam if part pa yun..... then once i dropped by the cash office and asked if I can see the voucher para alam ko lg if magkano ang kinaltas and dapat nareciv ko... pinagtuturo ako from office to office... nakkainis at nkakatamad na at that time kasi flight ko na..."

Doc Jonathan also wrote, "I fought for this after my last contract at tumagal ako sa disbursing hanggang nakausap ko ang head ng accounting na sya ang nagsabi na pinapahold ang pagbigay ng full hazard pay dahil sa desisyon ng isang "undersecretary" kumuha ako ng copy ng issuance ng COA at yung decision within DOH re Hazard at tinago ko nakalimutan ko na ang mga details. nabwusit din ako kasi aside from Hazard pay, and daming deductions from my previous 2 years sa dttb, basta sobra daw. mali pa ang computation kc pinarecompute ko at kulang sila ng 1K, ipapasok na lang daw and I didn't have chance to verify kung pumasok nga. pag lumabas na lang daw ang SC decision saka ibabalik, which I doubt. matagal na issue na ito, dapat nga may update kung anu na nangyayari sa appeal."

Other DTTB's were offering suggestions, like Doc Brenda, who wrote, "I'm a DTTB from batch 21 and I'm with DOH now.For sometime, I have been involved with some consultative meetings with other stakeholders regarding the magna carta for health workers. Before you do something drastic be sure you have consulted with HHRDB first. It is an advantage if you are familiar with all the issuances relating to magna carta for health workers and all moves being done to claim what is due for health workers."

Other DTTB's however were obviously frustrated, "HHRDB wouldn't think twice to sell us out! we're on our own, guys!" said one DTTB. "It's my experience with them. namimili lang yan ng tutulungan. i don't care if they know about what i think! During my time as dttb, these office guys rarely showed compassion and understanding for us out on the field. what can we expect, now that we're out of the program?" HHRDB is the Health Human Resource Development Bureau, the office handling the DTTB program among many other programs of the DOH related to human resources.

Doc Lei clarified her sentiment, writing, "Just to clarify po, I am not against the HHRDB or the DOH. In fact, I am in full support of the DOH's appeal. Constitutional na nga nating ituring ang pagbawi ng "sobrang" hazard pay. So be it. Pero may laban tayo kung susuportahan natin ang appeal ng DOH sa Supreme Court. Naniniwala akong makikinig ang mga tao sa mga DTTBs na kagaya natin."

She also wrote, "Ano po ang gustong gawin ng grupong ito sa isyu? Hayaan na lang ba at maghintay sa proseso kung saan man abutin? Tayo ay mga DTTB, at alam ko lahat tayo ay may strong sense of justice. Sana ay makagawa tayo ng konkretong hakbangin at nawa masuportahan nating buo ang appeal sa Korte Suprema."

"Pero bago ang lahat, inaamin ko na marami akong hindi nauunawaan. Ang alam ko lang, sabi ng COA, sobra sobra daw ang HAZARD PAY natin. At hindi ko ito matanggap (hindi lamang para sa aking sarili kung hindi para sa lahat ng rural doctors na nagpapakahirap at nagsisilbi)," she said.

Like what I said earlier, this is no novel issue. And the problem here is not so much the want for financial compensation of the DTTB. The bottom line issue here is the lack of communication between the HHRDB and the DTTB's, the former supposedly the one "taking care" of the latter. I do not wish to share my own experience regarding how I got my separation pay (more than a year after I filed for it with complete papers) from the government. But it pains me to hear the same issues being repeated and seemingly unresolved.

Issues like this are the ones that drain the enthusiasm and idealism of these young doctors and push them to either conform to a broken system or leave the country and contribute to the unplugged brain drain.

Something has to be done and if our society and government as a whole show high regard for these unsung heroes of the country, then they must show such appreciation with concrete action. I need not "litanize" the contributions these DTTB's give to the development of our country's health.

I do hope that our DTTB's will remain steadfast in their love for the country and remain committed and ideal despite the apparent disregard for their interest and welfare by the same government and country they serve.

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