'Below-average conditions of public toilets,' 'big crowds': Unions representing faculty, support staff, and hospital personnel at UST decry the substandard public toilets and express their reluctance to mix with large crowds that might include sick individuals as they raise to Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna their concerns regarding the city mandate requiring all employees to obtain a health certificate.

EMPLOYEE unions representing faculty, support staff, and hospital personnel at UST have reached out to Manila Mayor Honey Lacuna, raising concerns regarding the city mandate requiring all employees to obtain a health certificate.

Organisasyon ng Nagkakaisang Empleyado ng UST (ONE-UST), which includes the UST Faculty Union (USTFU), Samahang Manggagawa ng UST (SM-UST), and Ugnayan ng Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng UST Hospital (UNM-UST), sent a letter to Lacuna on June 21 listing their concerns and recommendations.

The letter, signed by USTFU president Asst. Prof. Emerito Gonzales, SM-UST president Dan Patricio, and UNM-UST president Donell Siazon, pointed to the “low turnout” of UST employees complying with the requirement — 850 of the 1,700 faculty members and 800 support staff.

They attributed the low compliance rate to several factors: the distance to the designated testing facility, the discomfort of collecting urine and stool samples in substandard public toilets, reluctance to mix with large crowds that might include sick individuals, and many teachers being in nearby provinces during the vacation period.

Applicants must download the “GO! Manila” app to set up a profile and schedule an appointment, and then pay P625 online for the health permit covering laboratory procedures but excluding the X-ray, which must be obtained from an accredited hospital and is a separate expense.

The required laboratory procedures, including a drug test and stool exam, are conducted at the former site of the Sta. Cruz Public Library on Alvarez Street.

The stool sample and X-ray results are collected at a nearby covered basketball court where a sign hanging from the ceiling says a new public health laboratory won’t be open until July 2024.

At the collection point, applicants are instructed by staff to fill up another online form for lab use. However, there is no WiFi available at the venue.

Mimeographed drug test consent and specimen custody and control forms, consisting of three pages, are sold in a store across the former library site for P10 each, without official government receipts.

Sellers of bottled water, meant to induce urine, hover around the disorderly queue on the street. Only a picnic shade tent protects the people in the long queue from the elements.

The union presidents requested Lacuna, a licensed physician and a UST graduate, to establish a satellite office at UST Manila where collection and testing of specimens can be done, as well as to extend the deadline for compliance to July 31 from May 31.

“To encourage more of our members to comply soonest, we request your kind office [t]o set up within the UST campus in España, a satellite office for the collection and testing of specimens and for the payment of fees, [and] to extend the deadline to July 31 which is the end of our summer vacation,” they said.

In April, UST employees were instructed by the Office of the Vice Rector for Finance to obtain health certificates by the end of the academic year, in line with Manila’s ordinance.

Manila Ordinance 8793, or the Sanitation and Disinfection Code of the City of Manila, was enacted on Dec. 2, 2021 to consolidate all laws promoting public health and sanitation of establishments in Manila.

It was signed in April 2022 by Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, then mayor, in one or his last official acts before his unsuccessful bid for the presidency.

A portion of the ordinance reads: “Public and private schools, universities and other educational institutions shall secure sanitary permits, while the teaching and non-teaching personnel thereof including personnel contracted for other services shall secure health certificates from the Manila Health Department.”

The text of the health certificate requires all employees to wear it while in school: “THIS HEALTH CERTIFICATE SHALL BE CLIPPED IN THE UPPER LEFT FRONT PORTION OF THE UPPER GARMENT OF THE EMPLOYEE WHILE WORKING.”

The drug test examines an employee’s urine sample for methamphetamine and cannabis while the stool exam checks for ova or parasites. X-ray findings with normal chest results get immediate approval.

Individual violators will be fined P3,000 for the first offense and P5,000 plus revocation of the health certificate for the second offense.


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