UST Hospital workers ask for COVID-19 quarantine leave credits

Jaehwa Bernardo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2020 02:18 PM

A union of workers at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital (USTH) has appealed to its management to pay salaries of employees who had to undergo a two-week quarantine due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) without using existing leave credits.

In a statement, the Ugnayang Nagkakaisang Manggagawa-University of Santo Tomas Hospital (UNM-USTH) asked the management of the Manila-based medical facility to “pay every employee who underwent a 14-day quarantine without deducting any from their leave credits.”

Under the current set-up, the leave of absence of workers who undergo a 14-day quarantine is charged to their sick or vacation leave in compliance with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Advisory No. 4.

Union president Donell Siazon, however, raised concerns that hospital employees may run out of leave credits which can otherwise be used after the COVID-19 crisis.

Siazon said other hospitals have implemented a “COVID-19 leave,” where the leave of absence of workers who are required to undergo quarantine are not deducted from their existing leave credits.

“Ang apela din naman namin was to create another vacation leave, particularly sa quarantine leave na 14 days,” Siazon said in a phone interview.

(Our appeal is to create another kind of vacation leave, particularly a quarantine leave for 14 days.)

The union also asked the UST Hospital management to “follow the national government’s appeal to continue to give the salary of those who cannot go to work ‘due to extraordinary times.’”

Some UST Hospital employees were unable to come to work after several departments were shut down, while others had difficulty in commuting because of the lack of public transportation due to the Luzon lockdown, said Siazon.

“Sa ngayon kumakapit kami sa patalim. We have to file for a vacation leave,” he said.

“Natatakot po kami na baka pagkatapos maubos ng leaves, ‘no work, no pay’ na [kami],” he added.

(We're concerned that when we run out of leaves, it will be 'no work, no pay' for us.)

The Varsitarian, UST's official student paper, earlier reported that 530 staff members of the hospital were under quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 patients.

In a statement published on social media Thursday, the UST Hospital denied allegations that it was unfairly deducting leave credits from employees who were required to go on quarantine.

The UST Hospital said it had been compliant with labor laws, which provided leaves of absence to be charged to existing leave credits.

 

UST Hospital employees, according to the management, have a total of at least 36 days of paid leaves: minimum of 14 working days for vacation leave, 15 days for sick leave, and 7 days for emergency leave.

The hospital said it has paid approximately P17.6 million for the salaries of health care workers for the 14-day quarantine and effects of the Luzon lockdown.

“The hospital cannot simply afford to consider the quarantine period as days worked and be paid because of its enormous financial implication,” the hospital said.

“For the past weeks, the hospital has practically no income due to the current health crisis and the said situation would likely persist in several weeks or even months ahead.”

The UST Hospital added that it also applied for the interim reimbursement mechanism of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in order to support its continued operations.