For Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, a good way to strengthen the country’s primary health care system is to appoint a sufficient number of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) across the country and raise their status from being volunteers to government workers.
Cayetano is pushing for this through Senate Bill No. 68 or the Mahal Ko, Barangay Health Worker Ko Law which he filed on July 7, 2022.
Inspired by their invaluable service and contribution during the pandemic, Cayetano said BHWs should be given sufficient incentives, benefits, and just compensation for all their hard work in the country.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, BHWs were notably at the forefront of response where they served as the bridgeway of communication between the health centers and constituents,” Cayetano said in his bill’s explanatory note.
He said BHWs had been particularly helpful especially “through door-to-door delivery of medicines, assistance in the vaccination drives, participation in contact tracing efforts, among others.”
Cayetano said the need for adequate healthcare workers, facilities, and equipment were highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in remote areas.
To address this and to strengthen the country’s healthcare system, he said the government should begin by looking out for the welfare of BWHs.
“The goal of improving the Primary Healthcare System necessarily carries with it the responsibility of taking care and supporting those in charge of implementing the same,” the senator said.
Through SB No. 68, Cayetano wants to elevate their status by directing cities and municipalities to hire BHWs as employees of the Local Government Units (LGUs).
“BHWs hired… will receive all the compensation and benefits given by the city or municipality to its Job Order, Contractual, Casual, or Regular Employees,” the senator proposed through the bill.
In addition, Cayetano is seeking the coordination between the Department of Health (DOH) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) in creating a Special Barangay Health Workers Assistance Program that will provide additional financial and technical assistance, training, and other support to selected LGUs for their BHWs.
“The program will prioritize assistance to LGUs that do not have or have little capacity to give regular and adequate salaries and allowances to its BHWs for the next 10 years, as determined by the DOH and DILG,” he explained.
Cayetano said the City of Taguig has already proven that the promotion of BHWs is possible as it has started implementing this kind of upgrade and support through multiple incentives.
“Aside from their regular salary, they receive bonuses and other benefits like training, overtime pay, and hazard pay. We have elevated their status to be formally employed under our LGU as Job Order (JO) and Casual Employees,” he said.
“Such benefits should not be limited only in Taguig because all the Filipinos deserve the best social services. We should start properly compensating, assisting, and building up the skills of our health workers, because they are our backbone for the efficient delivery of our overall health system,” he added.