DepEd urged to provide free COVID treatment for teachers

A PROGRESSIVE party-list lawmaker has criticized the Department of Education (DepEd) for not heeding the call of teachers to shoulder medical expenses in case they get infected with coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19).

Under Section 22 of Republic Act (RA) No. 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, House Assistant Minority Leader and ACT Teachers party-list Rep. France Castro said the DepEd is mandated to provide free medical treatment and/or hospitalization.

"Now more than ever, the Department of Education must ensure that this provision in the Magna Carta for Public School teachers is met as plans to reopen schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic start," Castro said.

"Since the enactment of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers in 1966, the provision that mandates government to provide for the free medical treatment and/or hospitalization of public school teachers remained underfunded and placed under the corruption-ridden PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.). Though there are services offered by the PhilHealth, this clearly does not meet RA 4670’s mandate of free health care for public school teachers as PhilHealth are not free but in exchange of monthly contributions,” Castro stressed.

Section 22 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers entitled ‘Medical Examination and Treatment’ provides that public school teachers should undergo free compulsory medical examination before employment and should undergo free medical check-up at least once a year.

DepEd is also mandated by the same provision to provide free medical treatment and/or hospitalization.

"This is the same provision under the law that is the basis for the demand of teachers for DepEd to provide free annual medical check-up. A provision initially granted in last year's budget proposal for 2020 but was vetoed by the President," Castro added.

"The DepEd cannot simply say that public school teachers are already covered by PhilHealth and not find any other way to protect teachers who would get sick from further financial burden. Pinabayaan na ng DepEd ang mga guro na gumastos para sa sariling mga personal protective equipment para maprotektahan sila tuwing mayroong distribution ng mga modules, hahayaan pa nila ang mga guro kung sakaling magkasakit si teacher dahil sa COVID," Castro stated.

“Kung si teacher ay mayroon lamang P5,000 net take home pay, saan siya kukuha ng pambayad para sa pagpapagamot ng sakit? Ngayong panahon na may pagbabanta na hindi muna ituloy ang payout ng PhilHealth dahil sa sandamakmak na kaso ng korapsyon, saan kukuha ang simpleng guro na may pamilya ring inaasikaso ng pambayad ng gastusin sa ospital kung sakaling magkasakit siya ngayong nasa gitna ang bansa sa tumitinding pandemiya?” Castro asked.

"As long as the precautionary measures in schools in place are not enough and as long as government continues to deny the Filipino people the need for mass testing, teachers, the students and their families are vulnerable in contacting and further causing an outbreak of COVID-19. It is high time that the Department of Education ensure public school teachers free compulsory medical examination before employment, free medical check-up at least once a year and free medical treatment and/or hospitalization and simply placed under the PhilHealth," she said.

"There are already at least 63 public school teachers infected with COVID-19 in NCR, Region 7 and Region 10 according to a report by the Alliance of Concerned Teachers - Philippines. What has DepEd done to help these teachers? What will DepEd do to further protect other teachers as we near the official start of school year 2020-2021? What is the Duterte administration's concrete and medical plan to finally address the worsening COVID-19 pandemic in the country? If these questions are not answered, teachers, students and the rest of the Filipino people are put at risk by the negligence and incompetent of this government in addressing and protecting the people from this pandemic," Castro ended.