Barangay health workers deserve recognition

Barangay health workers (BHWs) play a vital role in the country’s healthcare system. They act as community organizers, educators, and primary healthcare service providers in their community. Therefore, they are at the forefront of the delivery of healthcare services at the grassroots level. They are our frontliners in the healthcare system.

Yet, the role they play is underrecognized or not recognized at all.

It was only at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic when the role BHWs played in the country’s healthcare system came to the fore as most often they were the first responders in the community. They kept those on home quarantine in check and responded to their needs. And they did this even if their work was voluntary in nature and with little training or without training at all.

In 1995, Republic Act 7883 (Barangay Health Workers’ Benefits and Incentives Act of 1995) was signed into law to provide benefits and incentives to BHWs. However, these benefits are subject to the decision of local health boards or the local government units.

Nothing was certain.

Last month, the House of Representatives passed the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers (House Bill 6557), one of the priority measures of President Marcos. This is a welcome development as it gives hope that the role of BHWs will be finally recognized through concrete and guaranteed benefits they truly deserve.

And in a meeting with the Barangay Health and Wellness Partylist on Jan. 25, President Marcos pushed for the immediate passage of the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers in recognition of their contributions.

Under the Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers, a BHW is defined as a person who has undergone training under any accredited government or non-government organization (NGO), and who voluntarily renders primary healthcare services in the community after having been accredited to function as such by the local health board. This means they have to be trained before being accredited. This will enable them to be better equipped in delivering healthcare services.

Once enacted, the House of Representatives said accredited BHWs who actively and regularly perform their duties and responsibilities shall be entitled to the following incentives and benefits — monthly honoraria worth ₱3,000, hazard allowance not less than ₱1,000 per month, subsistence allowance for meals worth ₱100, and transportation allowance worth ₱1,000 per month.

BHWs shall also be entitled to a 20-percent discount on all items based on Section 4(a) of Republic Act 9994 (Expanded Senior Citizens Act of 2010). But the cited “privileges shall not be claimed if the BHW is eligible for a higher discount as may be granted by the commercial establishment and/or other existing laws.”

They shall be entitled to the following health benefits — free medical care, including surgery and surgical expenses, medicines, x-ray, and other laboratory fees, when confined in any public hospital or health institution; emergency assistance not exceeding P5,000 chargeable against the fund of the barangay concerned, for expenses incurred in the nearest private hospital or clinic in case of extreme emergency where there is no available public hospital; and mandatory and immediate membership in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) as indirect contributors.

An accredited BHW who sustains injury or sickness in the course of the performance of their duties shall be entitled to ₱2,000 for every year of service as disability benefit.

BHWs shall also be granted insurance coverage and benefits from the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) which shall be borne by the LGU concerned.

They shall also get a cash gift given every December of not less than the minimum monthly honoraria.
Under the proposed measure, a one-time gratuity cash incentive of not less than ₱10,000 “in recognition of the BHW's loyalty and dedication and for having continuously and satisfactorily served at least 15 years” shall be granted to the qualified BHW.