Erap extends health services to far-flung communities

The Daily Tribune| Written by: Tribune Wires| February 27, 2017

In a bid to extend much-needed health services in remote communities of Manila, Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has formed an army of health workers to implement what he called the “Reach Every Purok”(REP) outreach program.

Estrada partnered with the Department of Health (DoH) and the United Nations International Children’s Fund (Unicef) in the recruitment, training and deployment of these so-called Barangay Health Volunteers (BHVs).

“The BHVs will be our emissaries in each barangay, especially in those hard-to-reach sitios, who will help us implement our wide array of free medical services and programs for the poor Manileños,” the mayor said during the formal launch of the REP program recently.

Each member of the 450-strong volunteer group has completed a six-month training course on working with barangay health workers, doctors and other medical personnel, and liaisoning with barangay officials and communities.

Dr. Benjamin Yson, officer-in-charge of the Manila Health Department (MHD), said the BHVs will be equipped with kits such as umbrellas, boots, water containers, basic medical supplies and equipment and other accessories” that will help them reach every corner of the communities.”

“These barangay health volunteers will be a great help to the barangay health workers, the health center physicians, and the nurses in all the public health programs. They would immerse in the communities and share the information about the health programs that we are giving in our health centers such as the anti-TB program, immunization, dengue fever program and other things,” Yson pointed out.

Initially, one BHV will be assigned to every two barangays, Yson added. “They are purely volunteers,wala silang allowance.”

The REP program’s primary objective is to ensure immunization of children, especially those within the age range of zero to two years old, Yson said.

The initial focus sites are the identified “poorest of the poor communities” in the city, particularly in the areas of Parola, Vitas, Dagupan, Barrio Fugoso, Barrio Magsaysay, San Nicolas, V. Fugoso, Dimasalang, Mabini, San Sebastian, Pedro Gil, San Andres, Intramuros and Baseco, the MHD chief said.

For his part, Jose Mari Castro of DoH said the BHVs may also go to the homes of the residents who are unable to bring their sick children to health centers for consultation or immunization.

“Based on studies, 29 percent of children who died due to preventable diseases such as Hepatitis B, pneumonia, tuberculosis, and diphtheria could have been saved had they been immunized at an early age,” he said.

This was supported by Dr. Carlo Orosco of Unicef who said millions of children in the country, in rural areas and even in cities such as Manila, have no access to basic health services such as immunization.

“Dito sa Maynila ay nakita namin na less than 70 percent, bale 65 to 70 percent lang, ang mga batang less than one year old na may mga bakuna,” Orosco revealed.

This, she said, is brought about by many factors, such as the parents’ lack of awareness of free health services in the community health centers, she added.