A barangay health worker (BHW) in Baguio City who has been serving for 10 years, some of which spent holding the frontlines during the Covid-19 pandemic, is among those who ran and won a seat at the barangay council during the Oct. 30 barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.
As one of the community health workers who helped in the city’s counter-measures against the Covid-19 virus, Pilita Cachero-Alcantara of Imelda Marcos barangay is making it a priority as a barangay kagawad to continue helping ensure the health of the community and uplift the status of BHWs and other volunteer health workers.
Alcantara said as BHWs, they are expected to be advocates of health programs, educate the community on health priorities in their area, disseminate health updates, and gather and record health data needed in health programs.
These roles require them to meet and talk with barangay residents face to face.
Alcantara said working at the ground level leads them to hear numerous concerns of residents that are not health-related, but in which are expected to help in any way they can.
During the height of the pandemic for instance where lockdowns were imposed, BHWs along with barangay officials were the ones who went house to house to disseminate health protocols and help in contact tracing and gathering of data on Covid cases. Most of the time, when residents were not allowed to go out of their house, BHWs were sent to do errands like buying food and other supplies and usually serve as sounding board for personal concerns; other times people got angry for locking them down due to the health restrictions.
“It came to a point when they say we are only volunteers, lower level workers. But if there are things to be done, they call for us to do all the work,” Alcantara shared, adding BHWs are only receiving an allowance, even when they devote most of the time at work.
She also shared there are times when their own family members resented them when they spend most of the time at work and lesser time with them.
Alcantara said the will to improve healthcare in her community and being looked down upon as a BHW motivated her to run for public position as a barangay kagawad.
She believes as a barangay official she can serve her community better and it is a way for her work on helping upgrade the status of BHWs like her so they would earn respect at the least for the services they render for the community.
“I don’t aspire for people to give us grand recognition, but at least they should not look down on us, a little appreciation and respect for what we do would not hurt. That is what I planned to fight for when I decided to run for barangay kagawad, because without the volunteers, there will be no one to do the data gathering needed in reports (on health and other matters that may be used in policy making),” Alcantara said.
Alcantara is also the president of the BHW federation of the city and auditor of the regional BHW federation.
Aside from her, four other officers of the city BHW federation have also been elected as barangay officials in the recent BSKE. – Hanna C. Lacsamana