In this pandemic, medical frontliners face the risk of possibly contracting COVID-19 and infecting their families at home. In the small island community of Perez, Quezon Province in the Philippines, community health workers experience the challenges of being both a mother and a frontline health worker during this global health crisis.
By Jerico Daracan
A community health worker and a mother of three, Dexcelyn Talisay shares about how the pandemic added more strain on her already challenging routine, her daily risk exposure, and how her family copes up with her husband’s loss of income.
Dexcelyn has been a barangay health worker (BHW) in Perez, Quezon Province for more than 4 years. When COVID-19 lockdowns were imposed in March 2020, she was tasked to keep track of persons under monitoring (PUM) arriving from outside their community. According to her, BHWs now have to be on duty every day to check PUMs’ temperature and ensure that quarantine protocols are being followed. This is on top of her existing duties as a BHW, which includes monitoring hypertensive senior citizens and facilitating a feeding program for malnourished children. “Every single day, we have to visit the areas assigned to us to monitor who is coming. Even if we can no longer handle our family duties, we must keep our eyes on PUMs,” shared Dexcelyn.
During the first weeks of lockdown, Dexcelyn said that they had to provide protective equipment for themselves as supplies of face masks, face shields, and alcohol were given late to them. “It was after more than a month since the lockdown began when we received the medicine kits from our rural health unit. It contained face masks, soap, alcohol, and face shield,” she said.
Despite having additional tasks and responsibilities and being vulnerable to contracting the disease for being exposed at the frontline during this pandemic, Dexcelyn said that they do not receive additional compensation, except from the Php2,500 hazard pay, which was given in June 2020. While being grateful, she admitted that this was not enough. “I was grateful, but I admit that It did not even last for two weeks because when the lockdown was imposed [in March 2020], my husband lost his job,” shared Dexcelyn.
Failing to go back to his family in Perez just before lockdown, Dexcelyn’s husband has been away from their family since January 2020. He has been unemployed since then because of an operational freeze in his job as an electrician. Because their family’s only source of income now is her Php1,200 monthly BHW honorarium, she had to find ways of earning extra money. She has started doing online selling, which has somehow helped her gain an additional income for their expenses. But as a mother for her three young children, the possibility of contracting the virus and infecting her family makes Dexcelyn more anxious and worried, especially that there is no free testing being implemented for them. “My situation is doubly difficult because my young children greet me when I come home from work. I need to find ways to avoid immediately getting in contact with them, especially the youngest,” said Dexcelyn. But even with all those challenges, Dexcelyn finds joy and happiness in her job of helping people access health services, which motivates her to keep serving as a BHW in their community.
Considering their crucial role in delivering national health programs and policies at the grassroots level, she is even more inspired to effectively perform her job, especially during this time of a global health crisis. “Now more than ever, we must do our best on our duties because our rural health unit hugely rely upon our help,” she said. She only hopes that the government will implement free testing for them to ensure their safety from the virus and provide just compensation for their service as frontliners.