BHW rights strengthened in ZFF partner-municipalities

Finally, barangay health workers (BHWs) in Sibuyan Island, Romblon get the protection and benefits they rightfully deserve.

In the inter-local health zone (ILHZ) of Sibuyan Island which is composed of the municipalities of Cajidiocan, Magdiwang and San Fernando, the mayors, BHW Federation presidents and barangay (village) captains formally agreed to measures that would prevent the arbitrary removal of BHWs from service.
The practice of replacing BHWs each time new barangay leaders were elected was so pervasive that it often disrupted the delivery of health services because new hires—allies of the leaders—were often inexperienced and untrained.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) underscored the strict implementation of RA 7883 or the Barangay Health Workers’ Benefits and Incentives Act, where a BHW is defined as a person “who voluntarily renders primarily healthcare services in the community” following accreditation by the local health board (LHB). Thus, the MOA states that “all BHWs cannot be terminated, without justifiable reason, as their service in the community is done under the principle of volunteerism and that no certificate of appointment issued by the Barangay Local Government Unit (BLGU) is needed to allow any BHW to render healthcare services in the community.”

The MOA also puts in place a performance management system to monitor a BHW’s performance and code of ethics. Termination will be based on the rating and is subject to a review process to be conducted by the municipal LHB.

The signing of the MOA took place during the ILHZ’s Second BHW Summit last June 15 in Magdiwang. Present during the signing were Department of Health-Local Health Assistance Division Chief Anna Birtha Datinguinoo, Department of Interior and Local Government Provincial Director OIC Johnson Fopalan, Mayor Festo Galang of Cajidiocan, Mayor Ibarra Manzala of Magdiwang, Mayor Dindo Rios of San Fernando, barangay officials, rural health unit staff and over 400 BHWs.

The three towns of Sibuyan Island are partner-municipalities of the Zuellig Family Foundation under its Community Health Partnership Program where local health leaders undergo health leadership training to broaden their knowledge and appreciation for health; and make them pro-active in implementing health reforms. Since the start of the partnership, the health leadership teams of these LGUs have successfully influenced their barangay leaders to perform their roles in the local health system. The MOA was originally an initiative of Cajidiocan, which then merited the approval of all three municipal mayors. It underwent numerous consultations and dialogue sessions with barangay captains, BHWs, municipal health officers and other local officials.

This is the first innovative program that the Sibuyan ILHZ implemented since its re-activation last October. The three municipalities, which used to implement programs independently of each other, are now starting to work together towards a unified health system that would benefit residents of the whole island.

In support of this ILHZ initiative, ZFF will produce the BHW Manual that will serve as a guide to the implementation of the terms stated in the MOA. The manual will be distributed to BHWs, barangay captains and the local health boards of the municipalities.