By Charissa Luci-Atienza
The Makabayan bloc wants to make mandatory the appointment of barangay health workers (BHWs), citing the community health workers’ crucial role in the delivery of primary health care, especially in this time of the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Ferdinand Gaite led the filing of House Bill No. 6562, or the proposed Barangay Health Workers Act of 2020.
“BHWs are among the front-liners in primary health care especially now in the time of CoVid-19, as they provide assistance and support to physicians, dentists, nutritionists, public health nurses, and midwives. Their role is indispensable to community health and wellness,” he said in a statement.
“They provide ﬁrst aid, collect vital statistics, maintain records, and make reports; participate in community meetings’ provide assistance to health center activities like nutrition education, monitoring and feeding; immunization education, monitoring, and dispensing family planning services, sanitation and hygiene promotion and education, and disaster relief and rehabilitation, among others. They are volunteers that are risking life and limb to save others so it is high time the government reward their sacrifices with higher allowances and benefits,” he added.
He said despite the passage into law of Republic Act 7883, which provided incentives and benefits to BHWs, the issues and concerns besetting the BHWs and the barangay level health care persisted.
“The country still does not have enough BHWs. The Department of Health (DOH) admitted in 2019 that the present number of BHWs at 207, 392 are not enough for the needs of the people and that we need 802,422 more,” Gaite said.
DOH-Bureau of Local Health Systems and Development Maria Lourdes Gajitos claimed that it is not easy to fill the discrepancy because BHW work is “voluntary,” he noted.
“But, this voluntary nature of BHWs is used as pretext to exploit them and grossly take them for granted. Like most of the barangay folks they serve, BHWs suffer from poor economic conditions, inadequate health services and facilities, and being subjected to political manueverings of local politicians,” the partylist lawmaker said.
House Bill No. 6562 provides that there shall be appointed in each barangay such number of BHWs as the Department of Health (DOH) shall determine and recommend in consideration of the number of households in a barangay.
Under the bill, the total number of BHWs per barangay shall not be less than three, nor more than one percent of the barangay’s total population.
The DOH is tasked to appoint the BHWs in each barangay.
It is also required to develop a competency-based education and training curriculum for all barangay health workers, in coordination with the University of the Philippines (UP).
House Bill No. 6562 provides that the entry pay level of a BHW shall be prevailing rate equivalent to Salary Grade 1 (SG 1).
Aside from the benefits and incentives provided for public heath workers under the Magna Carta for Public Health Workers, the BHWs shall also be entitled to the following additional benefits: free legal services, preferential acess to loans, and a second grade Civil Service eligibility.
Under the bill, the DOH, the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Civil Service Commission (CSC), and the Government Insurance System (GSIS) shall formulate the implementing rules and regulations of the proposed Act 180 days from the effectivity of the proposed Act.
As the number of COVID-19 cases increased to more than 100, Gaite said the P13 billion contingency fund should be immediately released.
“President Duterte must also certify the release and utilization of the funds under the Contingent Fund amounting to P13B, plus other funds already approved under the 2020 General Appropriations Act to address the health, food and other needs of the people,” he said.