Teachers seek for Government medical assistance
The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) today revealed that one of the principal factors why teachers borrow money is because the government does not have medical assistance to them despite the mandate of a law.
“Under the law, the government is responsible to maintain teachers’ health thru a compulsory, annual and free medical examination. And if the examination found that a teacher needs to undergo medication or hospitalization, again it should be at the expense of the government.” Said Benjo Basas, TDC national chairperson quoting Section 22 of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers (RA 4670), a law enacted in 1966.
The group argued that teachers, aside from daily expenses for their family and teaching aids are also burdened by expenses for their medical needs and one of them is the annual medical check-up which should be given free for all teachers. However, despite the explicit provision of the law, teachers themselves pay for these tests.
“One of the reasons why teachers borrow money is the emergency medical need for themselves and their family members. They run to loan agencies especially if they have no extra income or savings from their meager salaries. Then, it would be difficult for them to free themselves from chains of debt.” Basas lamented.
Basas added that there are some conditions that would really make things worse like if the teacher needs to be confined in a hospital for weeks or if they have to undergo chemotherapy, dialysis or major operations due to heart or lung conditions or complications due to pregnancy, which according to him cost amount that teachers can never afford.
Basas cited the case of Jennifer Nague De Jesus, a teacher of San Vicente Elementary School in San Pedro City, Laguna since 2007. She was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease in year 2012 and was forced to leave her job for two years to undergo regular hemodialysis from 2013. During the period that she cannot report for work, she has no income and received no assistance from the government, except for quarterly pledge of P3, 000 from her mayor. Presently, she is back to teaching but still needs to undergo dialysis sessions two times a week that costs her not less than P4, 000, because she has consumed her free sessions from Philhealth.
“Where could Teacher Jennifer possibly get that amount if she will not run to loan agencies for fast cash? But at the end of the day, where she will get the money to pay for these loans? Clearly, she borrowed money, literally to live.” Basas added.
Indeed, Jennifer suffered compounded interests of loans from a private bank. In the case of GSIS, she has no record of payment, both for premiums and loans for almost four years, another predicament she will confront in the near future.
Basas actually said that Jennifer may have been more fortunate than others. For instance, he cited the case of a teacher in Caloocan City who died in a private hospital early last year, but because the family lacks money to settle the bills, her body was seemingly made hostage for several weeks. Another teacher from Malabon gave birth to her first baby in a lying-in clinic and had continuous bleeding, then was rushed to a private hospital where she suffered a state of comatose for more than a week. The family, whose income depends mainly on her, solicited funds from politicians and guarantee letters from PCSO to pay for the bills. The poor teacher did not make it, she died few days before Christmas of 2016.
These incidents prompted the TDC to ask the DepEd to establish a support mechanism thru a mutual aid and benefit system that would be readily available to all teachers in need, on top of the immediate implementation of Sections 22 of the Magna Carta.
The TDC is very optimistic though that the DepEd would act favorably on both matters after they have discussed them with Sec. Leoner Briones herself in a dialogue with the TDC leaders held during the National Summit of Teachers in Taguig City last November 17. Briones gave her initial commitment and said that the DepEd will consider increasing the school funds (MOOE) to cover free annual medical check-up for all teachers. As to the mutual benefit system proposal of the TDC, the DepEd said this may be included in the services of the DepEd Provident Fund, which now is limited to loans. The Secretary said they would immediately study legalities to enable them to grant these benefits.
“We appreciate these pronouncements from our Secretary and we would wait for them to be translated in policies.” Basas ended. #
“Sec. 22. Medical Examination and Treatment. Compulsory medical examination shall be provided free of charge for all teachers before they take up teaching, and shall be repeated not less than once a year during the teacher’s professional life. Where medical examination show that medical treatment and/or hospitalization is necessary, same shall be provided free by the government entity paying the salary of the teachers.” RA 4670
Benjo Basas, TDC Chair, 0927-3356375
Jennifer Nague De Jesus, 0916-2953761 (she actually had a dialysis session yesterday, November 23 and continuously under strict observation)
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