Probe called on hospitals, staff who turn away poor patients
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called on the Department of Health (DOH) to probe and charge for criminal and civil damages those liable for recent incidents involving emergency patients who were turned away by hospitals for their inability to pay an initial deposit or fee.
In a statement, Hontiveros appealed for the strict implementation of the of Republic Act No. 10932 or the strengthened “Anti-Hospital Deposit Law” in the wake of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Under the said law, officers of hospitals which demand any form of deposit or advance payment as a pre-requisite for emergency treatment or care of a patient will face imprisonment of up to six years and a fine of up to P1 million.
Meanwhile, errant hospital employees will face imprisonment of up to two years and four months, and a fine of up to P300,000, the law further sates.
Any hospital which violates the law thrice will have its license to operate revoked, said Hontiveros, who is the principal author of the law.
“Mas mahalaga ang buhay ng tao kesa sa kita ng iilan, lalo na ngayong panahon ng matinding krisis (The life of a person is more important than making a profit, especially in this time of crisis),” she said.
“Hospitals must comply with the law and must not withhold live-saving medical treatment from persons who need it the most… or face legal penalties for doing so,” she added.
One particular case Hontiveros cited was that of Katherine Bulatao, a mother who had just given birth but was denied admission by six hospitals, including one which wanted her family to pay P4,000 for the personal protective wear (PPEs) of their medical staff.
The senator also pointed to the case of Josefina Barros who was reportedly refused treatment by several hospitals.
One hospital, Hontiveros noted, demanded Barros’ family to pay a deposit of P30,000 before she could be admitted.
“Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang ganitong kawalan ng puso at pagkalinga sa mga kababayan natin (The lack of compassion and assistance to our fellow Filipinos is unacceptable),” the senator said.
“These cases are clear violations of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, and I urge the Department of Health (DOH) and our law enforcement agencies to immediately investigate and charge those legally liable for these incidents,” she added.
The senator likewise urged the DOH to activate the Health Facilities Oversight Board or a “Sumbungan Board,” where people can file complaints against hospitals which violate the said law.
“The ongoing pandemic is not an excuse for hospitals to commit abuses and deny emergency medical care to those who have less in life,” Hontiveros said.
Hontiveros said that in this time of health emergency, government should see to it that laws protecting the people’s health are observed and that all Filipinos will have access to effective and timely medical care.
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