The barangay health workers are a very special group of people in the community. They are vital to the delivery of primary health care to the people in the grassroots level.
In the early days of the pandemic, the BHWs were the first responders to the public health problem brought by Covid-19 – even before we truly understood how the virus behaved, and long before the vaccines came. The BHWs, who were assigned to be part of the Barangay Health Emergency Response Teams (BHERTs), were there to advise, evaluate, and monitor persons who either were exhibiting symptoms of Covid, or individuals who had been in close contact with a Covid-positive patient.
To each of those individuals, their next few days would be determined by the evaluation and recommendation of the BHERTs. They recommended if a person exhibiting symptoms would be sent to a quarantine facility, or if those who came into close contact with a Covid-positive patient would isolate themselves at home for a number of days, under their monitoring.
In many cases, the BHWs also took the task of contact tracing because of their familiarity with the interaction patterns in the community, further exposing themselves to the virus.
The Department of Health defines a barangay health worker as “a person who has undergone training programs under any accredited government and non-government organization and who voluntarily renders primary health care services in the community after having been accredited to function as such by the local health board in accordance with the guidelines promulgated by the DOH.”
The DOH enumerates the many roles of the barangay health worker, among them as “an educator who shall provide updated and timely knowledge and skills to community members in the prevention and management of simple illnesses and in relevant health issues.”
“They are also designated as barangay-level health promotion officers in accordance with the Health Promotion Framework Strategy and in support of the Universal Health Act.”
As a health care service provider, the DOH said the BHW also “assists health professionals in rendering primary care services in the community for which he or she is trained.”
Before the pandemic, they were visible as key players in implementing nutrition, immunization, anti-dengue and other health programs in the barangays.
Last week, the House of Representatives approved on second reading the proposed Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers or House Bill No. 6557. Reports said the measure is expected to be passed on third and final reading before Congress starts its five-week holiday recess.
The bill will enhance the benefits and incentives of the BHWs which were mandated in Republic Act 7883, otherwise known as the “Barangay Health Workers’ Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995.” The bill will entitle all accredited BHWs to incentives and benefits – hazard allowance, transportation allowance, subsistence allowance, one-time retirement cash incentive, health benefits, insurance coverage and benefits, vacation, maternity leaves and cash gifts, and an honoraria of not less than ₱3,000 a month.
The proposed measure seeks to professionalize the role of BHWs in the promotion of primary health care through programs, trainings, and scholarships, and also provides for a more defined role of the BHWs within the framework of the Universal Health Care Law. It also mandates the Department of Health (DOH) to provide continuing education and training programs for BHWs.
The Magna Carta also confers a first grade Civil Service Eligibility to an accredited BHW who has rendered at least five years of continuous service.
Passing the bill before the year ends would be a fitting Christmas gift to the BHWs around the country. It will convey the nation’s gratefulness for standing firm at the frontlines of the fight against Covid.
SIGN UP TO DAILY NEWSLETTER