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The Evolving Roles of BHWs: Bridging the Gap for Future Health Reforms

September 4, 2010

For sixteen years, our barangay health workers have been our health information disseminators, the nurturers of expectant mothers and sick children, and the providers of genuine health care to the Filipino in the deepest nooks of the country.
I would like to thank the National Confederation of Barangay Health Workers of the Philippines for inviting me to speak before the unsung heroes of our health delivery system.
Indeed, we have gone far in medicine and health care services. But it does not make our BHWs antiquated. As a matter of fact, their importance in the entire chain of health care delivery is of greater imperative now than ever.
With the resurgence of different disease outbreaks that most often emerge in the remotest areas in the country or with every calamity that strikes us, our BHWs serve as the caretakers of the lowly Filipinos. They have one of the toughest jobs and are one of the most dedicated sectors in government. However, it is distressing that their efforts come unrecognized and neglected.
Our health workers are undermined with regard to their meager honorarium and tough working conditions. Even with their relentless efforts in providing health care to our barangay folks who could not afford hospital fees, they are underpaid and not even provided with a health insurance program.
Our BHWs are extremely vulnerable to health risks, as they are exposed to diseases they confront every day. It is indeed ironic that the frontliners of Philippine health care do not have enough means to protect their own.
Due to this utter neglect of this crucial sector, many of them find other jobs or take refuge in foreign countries where they are properly compensated. We lose most of our health workers, which creates a shortage of hands on community health care service. Therefore, it is only just that they be honored fittingly and rightfully and be armed with an adequate health insurance program.
As I deemed it necessary to uplift the conditions of our hard-working BHWs, I have filed Senate Bill No. 1384, which increases the salaries, honoraria, and benefits of our health workers. This law, when passed, would increase the salary of BHWs to Salary Grade 10 and give a mandatory Christmas Bonus aside from the benefits granted to other barangay employees.
I also filed Senate Bill No. 1340 which grants compulsory coverage to accredited barangay health workers under the National Health Insurance Program. Under this law, all barangay health workers and their dependents shall be enrolled in the National Health Insurance Program for them to receive and avail of an adequate package of personal health services including emergency and transfer services, in-patient hospital care, out-patient care and other supplementary health benefits.
These laws only seek what is rightful and just to our health heroes. Through these measures, they will be better compensated, and hopefully, will be better motivated and continue to be pro-active and productive volunteers of health care service in the country.
Our health workers serve as pillars, holding the nation’s health care delivery system. It will founder and falter at the grass roots without the inspired and dedicated work of our barangay health workers.
And so my friends, I leave you today with a challenge – a challenge to bring barangay health care to a higher level of service – a level of greater efficiency and productivity, a level of dedication and commitment, a level built upon the pillars of the Filipino values. With our continued devotion, cooperation, and responsibility, we shall conquer the barriers that prevent us from providing quality health care service to the Filipino.
Thank you and Mabuhay.