A group of legislators is pushing the enactment of a bill establishing the Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers (BHWs) to enable the community workers to enjoy the financial and health benefits they deserve.
Reps. Paolo Duterte of Davao City, Eric Yap of Benguet, Edvic Yap, Jocelyn Tulfo and Jeffrey Soriano of ACT-CIS party-list and Ralph Tulfo of Quezon City, authors of House Bill 450, said BHWs have played the “crucial and heroic” role in keeping communities safe amid the continuing rise in the cases of dengue and COVID-19 infections in the country.
They said while the BHWs act as the first lines of defense in barangays against disease outbreaks, they continue to suffer unreasonable compensation and lack of benefits, especially if they are assigned to far-flung areas.
This dire situation often prompts many of them to seek better pay and working conditions elsewhere, Duterte, the principal author of the bill, said.
“While doctors and nurses receive most of the public recognition for their life-saving roles during the pandemic, BHWs have remained almost unacknowledged for their sacrifices. It is about time that we recognize the incomparable service of our BHWs by providing them compensation and benefits,” Duterte said.
Duterte added that “apart from granting due recognition to the incomparable services rendered by the BHWs, this proposed measure also seeks to encourage more healthcare workers to render their service in their own country, which would positively affect the health care programs of our government.”
DHB 450 proposes a monthly honorarium of not less than P3,000 per BHW, subject to adjustments based on prevailing market values.
On top of the monthly honorarium, BHWs accredited by the local health boards will also be given a monthly hazard allowance of at least P1,000; and monthly transportation allowance of at least P1,000.
Under his proposed law, Duterte also aims to provide BHWs with a 20 percent discount on goods and services similar to those given to senior citizens.
Accredited BHWs will also receive a subsistence allowance of at least P100 per day if they are assigned to isolated barangay health stations.
A one-time retirement cash incentive of not less than P10,000 will also be given to accredited BHWs who have continuously and satisfactorily served for at least 15 years.
Under the bill, all accredited BHWs are also entitled to an annual cash gift of not less than the minimum monthly honorarium that they receive. The cash gift will be given every December and will come from the general fund of the barangay or from such other funds appropriated by the national government for this purpose.
BHWs must be registered with, and accredited by, the municipal or city health board to be entitled to these incentives and benefits.
To become a registered BHW, an applicant should have rendered basic community health care services continuously and satisfactorily for six months immediately preceding the date of the filing of application for registration, and completed the basic orientation and training for BHWs as prescribed by the Department of Health (DOH) and conducted by an accredited government agency or DOH-recognized academic institution or non-government organization.
Duterte said that to further professionalize the ranks of BHWs, they should be accredited by the local health boards. This involves rendering additional service of at least two years, and completing a regular training program to be institutionalized by the DOH in cooperation with the local government units (LGUs).
The measure mandates the DOH in coordination with other government agencies to provide continuing education, training and career enrichment programs for the BHWs.
Accredited BHWs are entitled to free medical care under the bill when confined to any public hospital or health institution, and assistance not exceeding P5,000 for expenses incurred during times of extreme emergency where there is no nearby public hospital available.
HB 450 also entitles accredited BHWs membership in PhilHealth as indirect contributors. The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is also mandated to design an insurance benefit package suitable for accredited BHWs.
Accredited BHWs are also entitled to sick, vacation, and maternity leaves; receive disability benefits when they sustain injuries or fall ill in the course of performing their duties; receive free legal services in cases arising from the performance of their duties; and be granted first-grade civil service eligibility if they have rendered three years of continuous service.