Youth creates app for emergency response in remote areas

By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos

Emergencies can occur at any time, at any place, and can happen to anyone. It can be a heart attack, head injury from an accident, or a catastrophe that can strike anytime. While we cannot predict these unfortunate events, one’s survival can be high if immediate treatment is done.

Unfortunately, this was not the case for 21-year-old “JR,” whose heart attack was left untreated due to inefficient emergency services in his community.

JR’s passing stunned his close friend, Val Justin Deatras. Because of this, Deatras felt compelled to take action. With four other friends, he formed Team Y-CARE (Young Professionals as Catalysts for A Renewed Environment), and they joined Unilab Foundation’s Ideas Positive competition in 2014.

Val’s mission sprouted from the inadequacies of the healthcare system in the country. In far-flung communities, an insufficiently coordinated healthcare referral system can lead to permanent disability, even death.

The administration of health services is the responsibility of the local government unit.

According to the Philippine Health Systems Review of 2011, the Local Government Code (LGC), enacted in 1991, devolved the health services from the national to the local governments.

This law mandates the provincial governments to manage secondary level facilities, such as the district hospitals, while the municipalities take charge of the primary level facilities, such as the Rural Health Units (RHUs) and Barangay Health Centers (BHCs).

The Department of Health (DOH) has retained the management of tertiary level facilities such as the regional hospitals, medical centers, specialty hospitals and metropolitan Manila district hospitals. The involvement of the different government entities in the management of the different levels of health care has created challenges for integration and efficiency.

Team Y-CARE’s goal was to address challenges in the healthcare referral and emergency response in the community of Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Their proposed solution was a mobile application that can help reduce emergency response time.

The app was part of a system that empowered Barangay Health Workers to assess, classify, tag and refer patient’s cases, so that those with health emergencies could be treated post-haste. Less urgent cases could be treated immediately and on-site, reducing the need to go directly to the RHU and allowing for better prioritization of health resources.

Team Y-CARE’s HOPE App won fourth place during Ideas Positive Run 5 in 2015. During their project implementation, they were able to reduce emergency response time from one hour to 30 minutes, helping nearly 2,000 individuals in five barangays in Sta. Barbara. After the competition, Team Y-CARE decided to continue the work they had started. “The HOPE app is useful … not only improving the emergency response in the community, but [also bringing] back the trust of the community in the Barangay Health Workers,” Dr. Zoe Sucaldito, Medical Officer IV, Rural Health Physician said.

Sta. Barbara Municipal Administrator Alfredo Alas-as was enthusiastic. “This is a project that we want for our municipality. If you need the support of the Local Government Unit, the answer is YES. The next big thing for Sta. Barbara is efficient governance, and the HOPE App plays a role here.”

During the launch, Team Y-CARE demonstrated the app’s capabilities by asking Barangay Health Workers and Rural Health Workers to use the HOPE app while analyzing a health case at hand. In three separate scenarios, both the BHWs and RHU got the correct answer and response within acceptable time limits.

Lovelita Tutor, Barangay Health Worker from Brgy. Bantay, Sta. Barbara, is grateful for the HOPE app. Brgy. Bantay is one of the nine barangays covered by the HOPE app system. She shared that she and the other Barangay Health Workers are very thankful.

After almost two decades of no trainings to enhance their skills in community health, this new innovation challenged them to believe once more in their capabilities to shape the health of the community towards efficiency of healthcare delivery. The HOPE app helped them to practice their role as the first line of defense for health in the community.

With the support of the LGU and the Department of Health-Region VI, the HOPE App will reach a total of nine barangays in Sta. Barbara.Team Y-CARE will be monitoring the impact and efficiency of the app in the first three months after the launch, with the goal of reaching more communities in the future.