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Is salary increase for devolved PHWs possible despite the PS limitation?

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Maxi and flowering plants

Maxi and flowering plants

In case, the Local Government Unit (LGU) is about to exceed the budgetary Personal Services (PS) Limitation, is there an alternative remedy for devolved public health workers (PHWs) to get salary increase, at par with their national counterpart? This PS limitation is provided under Section 325 of  R.A 7160, otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991. It states, as follows:

Section 325.General Limitations. – The use of the provincial, city, and municipal funds shall be subject to the following limitations:

(a) The total appropriations, whether annual or supplemental, for personal services of a local government unit for one (1) fiscal year shall not exceed forty-five percent (45%) in the case of first to third class provinces, cities and municipalities, and fifty-five percent (55%) in the case of fourth class or lower, of the total annual income from regular sources realized in the next preceding fiscal year. The appropriations for salaries, wages, representation and transportation allowances of officials and employees of
the public utilities and economic enterprises owned, operated, and maintained by the local government unit concerned shall not be included in the annual budget or in the computation of the maximum amount for personal services. The appropriations for the personal services of such economic enterprises shall be charged to their respective budgets;0

Based from the above provision, unless the health facility, either a hospital, an infirmary or a birthing facility, which is managed by the LGU, is  legally recognized or converted to economic enterprise or the PS limitation principle be legally assailed and prevailed upon in a court proceeding, as discussed in the previous article entitled “Are LGU Hospitals and RHUs exempt from PS limitation?“, the only conclusion that can be reached is adversarial to the salary increase for the affected devolved health workers.

Is there still a remedy under the law, assuming the lack of factual grounds to exempt the facility from PS limitation? Yes, this is under paragraph (b) of Section 19 of R.A 7305, otherwise known as the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers. It states:

SEC. 19. Salaries. – In the determination of the salary scale of public health workers, the provisions of Republic Act No. 6758 shall govern, except that the benchmark for Rural Health Physicians shall be upgraded to Grade 24.

(a) x x x.

(b) Equality in Salary Scale The salary scales of public health workers whose salaries are appropriated by a city, municipality, district, or provincial government shall not be less than those provided for public health workers of the National Government: Provided, That the National Government shall subsidize the amount necessary to pay the difference between that received by nationally-paid and locally-paid health workers of equivalent positions.

(c) x x x.

(d) x x x.

Noticeably, stressed in the immediately above law is the equality of salary scale between the locally and nationally paid public health workers. In short, there is no difference between the salary scale of the national and local government employed public health workers. Consequently, if the national government increase the salary of the nationally paid health workers, the locally paid counterpart should likewise receive the same salary increase, at par with the former.

The observed disparities of the terms of  employment between the two type of health workers, therefore, are nothing but due to misreading or ignorance of the law, which is adversarial to locally paid public health workers, except in some LGUs, which are updated in paying the prescribed salary scales equal that of the national counterpart.

Further, expressly provided in paragraph (b), Section 19 of RA 7305, is the critical duty of the Department  of Health (DOH) to “subsidize the amount necessary to pay the difference between that received by nationally-paid and locally-paid health workers of equivalent positions“, charged to national coffer. Under the set-up, the provision of PS limitation in RA 7160 would not be contradicted, as the amount does not come from LGUs’ local appropriation.

Finally, the legal implication, therefore, in terms of priority, the Department of Health, instead of infrastructure, logistical support and Human Health Resource deployment to LGUs,  has to provide first in its annual budget the lawfully required salary subsidy for locally paid health workers, to address the local health manpower related problems and their ever pervading demoralization. On the other hand, the LGUs have to invoke the subsidy provision under Section 19, paragraph (b) thereof, of R.A 7305, so that the Department of Health will provide for it in its annual appropriation.

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