For a while there, we thought the dreaded “endo” only happens to privately-employed workers.
True, the government hires casuals and part-time, short-term workers for specific programs and projects.
That is just fine considering the nature of their temporary, short-duration tasks.
But we never realized that even health professionals in the public service are now subject to short-term employment termination.
We don’t even know if they have a fighting chance of re-employment – short-term, of course.
This was until we learned it from a very discerning senior lawmaker.
Senate Minority Leader Ralph Recto is rallying his colleagues "to rescue the thousands of Department of Health jobs in peril" as the proposed 2017 budget for the DoH's grassroots manpower deployment program will not be able to retain the number of personnel currently hired.
Recto said thousands of nurses, doctor, and dentists will face the dreaded "endo" (end of contract) at the end of the year if Congress would not override the government's plan to drastically downsize the number of frontline health personnel.
He said the Senate can explore many options "to save these jobs or at least cushion the effects of what amounts to be a mass retrenchment."
"First, we can infuse funds. The 6,000 affected nurses alone would require something like P2 billion," he said.
"We can also insert a provision in the national budget that would state that the affected personnel should have first priority in being absorbed by other or new programs of the Rural Health Practice Program (RHPP)," he said, referring to the official name of the rural manpower assignment project.
Another option is to insert a "firewall" provision, exempting poor, distant towns from the personnel cuts, Recto said. "We can insist that the status quo be maintained for 3rd class to 6th class towns."
Recto said he is working closely with and is in full support of the solutions being pursued by Health Sec.Paulyn Jean B. Rosell-Ubial on how to minimize the displacement "which was something that was merely imposed on the DoH."
The proposed cut was triggered by the payroll ceiling given to DOH for 2017 which could not accommodate the retention of all RHPP personnel as it has to fund the second round salary increases for its regular personnel under the Salary Standardization Law IV.
Unless rectified, the number of doctors hired under the RHHP will be slashed by one-half, and nurses, by one-third.
Recto said that under the agency's Doctor to the Barrios program, the number of physicians assigned to low-income towns will go down from 946 this year to 435 next year, or 511 fewer.
But it is in the deployment of nurses where the biggest cut is observed - from 15,727 this year to 9,349 in 2017, which means 6,378 nurses contracted under the Nurse Deployment Program would be axed.
The lawmaker said the number of DOH-paid dentists who would be assigned to rural clinics would also be reduced from the 2016 level of 324 to 243 next year.
While fewer doctors, nurses and dentists would be dispatched, the number of medical technologists and midwives hired would stay at 308 and 3,100 respectively.
Overall, RHPP slots would be slashed from the current 21,118 to 18,825 next year.
To augment the number of health professionals in impoverished towns, the DOH pays for the salaries of those it has hired under the RHPP.
The good news is that the DOH would hire 2,587 UHC (Universal Health Coverage) Implementers and 2,803 Public Health Associates (PHAs) he said.