Hospitals should not detain patients who cannot pay

To put a stop to the practice of detaining patients and the deceased who fail to settle their hospital bills, hospital administrators may soon face a fine of P 1 million and imprisonment of up to six years if Senate Bill No. 1937 is approved.

The measure, authored by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, seeks to strengthen Republic Act No. 9439 or the Anti-Hospital Detention Law and to provide full protection to patients or the loved ones of the deceased by making it unlawful for hospitals, clinics and other similar facilities to detain partially or fully-recovered patients due to the inability to pay their medical bills. Same will be held true for the bodies of deceased loved ones.Hontiveros, who is Vice-chair of the Senate Committee on Health, said that she filed the bill as a response to numerous reports of patients and cadavers not being discharged by hospitals because of their inability to fully or partially pay for their medical expenses.

"Hospitals are not prisons"

"Ang mga hospital ay lugar ng gamutan, hindi kulungan. Hospitals should be places where people suffering from various ailments find ample medical treatment and care in the hands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Hospitals must not be seen as prisons depriving patients of their liberty in the event that they have difficulty settling their medical bills," Hontiveros said.

In the measure, a promissory note and a guarantee letter from the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) or the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) can be presented in lieu of a mortgage or guarantee by a co-maker. The measure also provides that if the patient is or the deceased loved one was an indigent, a guarantee letter from the Department of Social and Welfare Development (DSWD) will suffice.

“The Strengthened Anti-Hospital Detention Bill offers additional mechanisms and support for patients to guarantee their obligations to health providers”, said Hontiveros. “This proposal will also increase fines penalties for abusive hospitals, clinics and similar facilities and expands coverage to patients admitted in private rooms,” she added.

Anti-Hospital Detention Fund

Hontiveros said that an Anti-Hospital Detention Fund to support poor and indigent patients will also be established once the bill is approved into law. She said that the fund is a mechanism for the government to help poor and indigent patients trapped by medical expenses. An initial P 1 million will be given to the health department to partly cover unpaid promissory notes issued by poor and indigent patients.

Hontiveros also warned that under her measure, abusive hospitals, clinics and administrators may get their license to operate revoked for repeated violations. "While I believe that the majority of our hospitals are committed to maintaining their ethical responsibilities to the public, we must not relent against the abusive. I believe that there is a way to balance patient rights and the right to be compensated in business. However, in the final analysis, healthcare is first and foremost a social service. The Filipino people's health is our top priority," she ended.#

SOURCE: Hontiveros seeks tougher penalties against hospitals that detain patients and the deceased; Senate of the Philippines via Facebook; Wednesday, August 15, 2018;