Pa of deceased patient sues QC hospital staff
SET for resolution in the Quezon City prosecutor’s office is a complaint against employees of St. Luke’s Medical Center for allegedly refusing to release a patient’s body over an unpaid P1.9-million bill and falsifying the promissory note to impose a 24-percent interest.
The case was filed by veteran journalist Alfred Rosario whose son, Alfred Jr., died at the hospital after 26 days of confinement in April last year. In a recent statement issued by Rosario, he said his family was seeking P2 million in damages and P500,000 to cover attorney’s fees.
The complaint for violation of the Hospital Detention Law (Republic Act No. 9439) and falsification of public document has been submitted for resolution, though it might be reraffled after the prosecutor handling the case, Ma. Cristina Mileta Ongsiako Zulueta, recently suffered a stroke.
The Inquirer has repeatedly contacted St. Luke’s Quezon City spokesperson Marilen Lagniton for comment but she has not responded as of press time. Zulueta’s office has also declined to release papers related to the case.
Named respondents for refusing to release the body were billing clerks Nick Gonzales and Chona Paz of St. Luke’s-Quezon City. Rosario also accused Gonzales and four other officials of falsifying his promissory note and imposing a 24-percent interest.
Rosario alleged that despite a previously approved promissory note, Gonzales refused to release the body until he signed under duress a prepared document imposing “onerous terms for the payment of the huge hospital bill.”
The original promissory note offered an initial payment of P400,000 and postdated checks of P40,000 per month until the bill is paid, Rosario said. The 24-percent interest on the hospital bill would stretch his amortization by almost two years, he said.
Rosario said he had never seen Lino Lacanlale, vice president for finance of the hospital; Remedios Pimentel, junior assistance manager; and Rowena Noble and Amparo Faigal, whose signatures appeared in the allegedly “fraudulent” promissory note.
Paz, meanwhile, refused to release the death certificate, which caused the postponement of the interment by one day, the complaint said.
Property as payment
Rosario said Paz also asked him to submit the title to his P12-million house and lot in Fairview and sign a dacion en pago stipulating the property as payment. Paz only relented when Rosario’s two lawyers threatened to sue her, he said.
The complaint invoked RA 9439, which makes it unlawful for a hospital or clinic to detain a patient for reasons of nonpayment of the hospital bill.
Under the law, a patient who wants to leave the hospital shall be issued the corresponding medical certificate and other pertinent papers required for his or her release upon the execution of promissory note covering the obligation. In the case of a deceased patient, the death certificate and other papers required for interment and other purposes shall be released to any of the surviving relatives.
Approved in 2007, it applies only to charity patients and does not cover those in private rooms, according to the law’s author, Sen. Pia Cayetano. The lawmaker explained that it was in response to the concern of the Philippine Medical Association that it could be abused by rich patient pretending to be poor to avoid payment or by an indigent patient purposely registering as a paying patient but can’t afford to pay. With Inquirer Research