‘Midwife to the Barangay’ Act filed to curb high maternal mortality

Saying that no mother should die while giving life, Senator Pia S. Cayetano has filed Senate Bill No.139, the proposed “Midwife to the Barangay Act of 2010,” to help reduce the country’s high maternal mortality rate (MMR).

One of Cayetano’s priority measures, the bill aims to deploy at least one registered midwife or “komadrona” for every barangay to complement existing professional medical personnel in the locality, especially in far-flung areas where maternal health services are insufficient.

Citing latest official statistics, she said 162 Filipino mothers die for every 100,000 births across the country—or equivalent to around 11 mothers dying while giving birth every day. The Philippines reportedly has one of the highest MMRs in Southeast Asia, outpaced only by East Timor and Cambodia.

She noted: “With this alarmingly high rate, our country will not be able to meet its own target under the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which is to reduce MMR to only 52 per 100,000 births in five years, or by 2015.”

“With the significant contribution of midwives in augmenting the presence of professional healthcare practitioners especially in rural areas, the increased community presence of midwives is necessary,” she added.

Cayetano’s measure seeks to deploy at least one midwife per barangay, guided by the recommended ratio of one midwife for every 5,000 population. The number of midwives will also be increased in barangays where the residents exceed 5,000.

“Currently, midwives are forced to cater to the needs of 10,000 to 30,000 individuals in their catchment area. This big disparity prevents them from providing quality and efficient healthcare services,” she explained, while noting how lack of access to health services and medical personnel lead to maternal deaths, especially among the poor.

Under the measure, all “Midwives to the Barangay” shall be tasked to provide essential health care services to mothers and infants in their respective jurisdictions, including pre-natal and post-natal care, breastfeeding support and information on immunization and proper nutrition.

The bill likewise mandates that all “Midwives to the Barangay” shall be appropriately compensated by the Department of Health (DOH) and entitled to all benefits provided under Republic Act No. 7305, otherwise known as the “Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.”

For a period of five years from the passage of the measure, the amount necessary to implement its provisions shall be charged against the DOH budget. Thereafter, such funds, as may be necessary for continued implementation shall be included in the appropriations of the respective Local Government Units.

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