In 1971, the Philippines launched the Community Health Organization Program to classify health services into primary, secondary, and tertiary levels. As part of this initiative, barangay health stations were created to ensure that primary healthcare improves the overall health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities.
Since then, these local health centers have played a crucial role in improving the health outcomes of Filipinos. They have not only provided general healthcare services but also served as agents during the COVID-19 pandemic and helped with the vaccination rollout. Additionally, they continue to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent diseases, particularly among vulnerable populations.
Adequate facilities for improved healthcare
SM Foundation (SMFI) has made it its mission to provide adequate facilities and upgraded equipment to boost health centers as they fulfill their mandate of delivering quality health care, even amid the pandemic.
Pursuing its mission, SMFI and UNIQLO Philippines traveled to the cities of Tuguegarao and Cauayan in Cagayan Valley and upgraded two health facilities serving thousands of Filipinos. Beyond the new infrastructure, health workers see it as a chance to put forth the services they have always drawn from the heart.
In Brgy. District 1, Cauayan, Midwife Tarita Ann Ballasteros has tended to patients from low-income households, who barely have money to spare for the fare going to the facility and to buy medicine. She would then give the best care she can offer to compensate for the limitations of their center.
“Nakikita ko ang sitwasyon nila na ultimo pamasahe, wala sila. Iniisip ko, wala man lang akong maibigay na gamot sa kanila. Para sa akin, hindi ko man sila lubos na mapagaling, lalabas sila sa facility na magaan ang pakiram dahil sa tinatawag nating TLC (tender loving care),” she said.
Before, they had to use curtains as improvised medical partitions or lock the health center’s door to provide comfort to women seeking reproductive health care or pregnant mothers coming in for prenatal checkups.
“It takes time to prepare and attend to the next patient. Kailangan pa namin takpan ng kumot o ilock ang pinto ng center para magkaroon ng privacy ang mga pasyente. Dahil dito, isa lang ang naaaccommodate namin. Minsan, hindi sila komportable dahil nakikita ng iba yung procedure na ginagawa namin sa kanila,” she said.
Through the upgrade, the Brgy. District 1 Health Center had its own room for maternal and child health services, equipped with necessary medical tools. It was also fitted with a breastfeeding area and a designated space for immunization.
The upgrade served as the boost they needed to complement the TLC they have always given their community.
“Malaki ang connection ng renovation ng center sa pagsasaayos ng kalusugan ng aming komunidad. Kaming mga health workers ay mas eager na sa pag-pasok sa trabaho at mas marami na kaming pasyenteng mabibigyan ng serbisyo at matutulungan,” she said.
“Dahil maganda na at maaliwalas, nakakatulong ito para gumaan ang pakiramdam ng pasyente bago pa man sila gamutin,” she added.
A change for the better
Sharing the same passion for health care service is Corazon Tanguilan, a Barangay Health Worker from Brgy. Cataggaman Pardo Health Center in Tuguegarao City.
“As a healthcare provider, hindi po namin gaano iniisip ang kalakihan ng aming health center. Ang importante po ay taos pusong pagbibigay ng serbisyo sa patients namin. Nasa kalooban po namin kung paano namin gagawing maayos pagpapatakbo ng aming operasyon,” she said.
Through their dedication, they strived to accommodate the healthcare needs of their patients despite unfortunate working conditions–from broken tiles, cracked wall paint, and damaged cabinets to limited electric fans for ventilation.
“Sira po ang aming mga tiles. Mahirap po ito dahil baka madulas o mapaano ang aming mga pasyente na kadalasan ay buntis at mga bata. Kaya nilagyan na lang po namin ito ng masking tape para makaiwas sa aksidente,” she recalled.
Due to the center’s layout and space limitations, it became even more difficult for them during the pandemic. With sick children, pregnant women, and TB-DOTs patients, it felt like a weight was pressed against their chests as they hoped to safely accommodate all patients while implementing social distancing.
“During immunization days, may mga pregnant mothers na darating for prenatal check-up. Ine-entertain namin sila dahil hindi namin puwedeng pauwiin ulit at pabalikin pa. Mahalaga po ang sapat na espasyo para maisagawa ang infection prevention and control measures. Kaya mainam po ang ginawa ng SM Foundation na pagpapalawak ng health center namin para sa kaligtasan ng patients namin,” she explained.
As their center was rebuilt from the ground up, they felt relief and gained renewed optimism to improve their operations.
In addition to the installation of new equipment and facilities, complemented by cosmetic improvements such as fresh paint and tiles, the upgraded health centers now include designated rooms for maternal care, medical check-ups, and TB-DOTs treatment. The spacious and well-ventilated lobby provides a warm welcome to the people of Tuguegaraonos, encouraging them to pursue healthy living and become valuable contributors to the growth of their city.
“27 years na po ako sa serbisyo at bihira po ang health center na naka-aircon at well-ventilated. Kaya ngayon pong naisaayos na po ito, tiyak po ako na mas maeengganyo ang constituents ng namin na pumunta sa aming Center,” she said.