Senator Leila M. de Lima has sought for the immediate passage of a measure granting compensation and incentives to health workers who are at most risk during public health crisis, such as the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that so far killed 19 people and infected 307 others in the country.
De Lima, who chairs the Senate Committee on Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development, said the country’s barangay health workers (BHWs) are risking their own safety and lives as they attend to the health needs and demands of their communities.
It is then appropriate, she continued, that the government should provide these BHWs with proper compensation and incentives as they go about providing quality health care and services in the grassroots level, especially those assigned in dangerous areas or risky situations.
“With all the undeniably heroic roles and myriad responsibilities that BHWs play in our health sector, especially during a public health crisis that is gripping our country today, it is only right and important that we also take care of them by providing them just compensation and incentives they deserve,” she said.
Official figures show that as of 2009, there are 196,562 barangay health workers, also commonly referred to as barangay health volunteers, who are servicing 42,044 barangays across the country.
Although ideally, a BHW is expected to work with an average of around 20 families in their respective local community, the lack of trained individuals has cut down the number of volunteers where one or two volunteers service an entire barangay.
The lady Senator from Bicol pointed out that these barangay health workers have long been treated as volunteers and do not get fixed allowances, despite the very crucial role they perform in attending to the health needs of the local communities.
“BHWs act as primary health care providers and educators in our local communities especially in far-flung areas. They constitute a vital part of the community’s efforts of providing quality health care and service in the grassroots level,” she noted.
Under the law, BWHs are tasked to implement nutrition programs, basic nursing care like assisting in maternal services, immunization and regular weighing of children. They also respond to accidents caused by calamities by providing first-aid assistance.
“Given the nature of their work, they are also more prone to contracting various sickness and contagious diseases. They are also our first line of defense in times of national crisis such as the coronavirus infection that hit us,” the lady lawmaker said.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, said there is a need to revise and repeal Republic Act 7883 which governs barangay health workers by instituting the “Magna Carta for Barangay Health Workers,” prescribing their just compensation and incentives.
Under her measure, logged as Senate Bill (SB) 185 which she filed at the start of the 18th Congress, De Lima is proposing that all BHWs should be allowed to complete a six-month education and training program where they would receive a proper accreditation.
This education and training program, under SB 185, shall be credited as units earned in higher education institutions with step ladder curricula that entitle BHWs to upgrade their skills and knowledge for community work or to pursue further training as midwives, pharmacists, nurses or doctors.
Other salient features of her measure include:
- Mandatory appointment of at least five BHWs in each barangay, instead of the current one BHW per barangay, to be appointed by the local chief executive upon recommendation of the local health board;
- A minimum honorarium of PhP6,000 and a transportation allowance of at least PhP500 every month;
- A hazard allowance for those BHWs exposed in a work environment that endangers their life or health;
- A subsistence allowance (e.g. for meals) for those in isolated barangays;
- A mandatory PhilHealth coverage with contribution to be paid by local government unit; and
- Civil Service Eligibility (2nd grade) for those who have rendered two years of continued service. (30)