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Hospital detention has to stop: Go

October 16, 2019 - Wednesday 6:10 PM by MDM

Article Banner Image Senator Christopher Lawrence Go at the Senate health committee hearing on October 14 on Senate Bill (SB) No. 166 filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros (right).

Senator Christopher Lawrence Go vowed to put a stop to the illegal practice of detaining or refusing discharge of patients from confinement for their inability to settle their hospital expenses.

Go made the promise during a Senate health committee hearing on Monday, October 14, on Senate Bill (SB) No. 166 filed by Senator Risa Hontiveros which increases the penalties against institutions continuing this practice, and SB No. 697 of Senator Koko Pimentel which seeks to prohibit the withholding of Muslim cadavers in the custody of any hospital, and mandates their release within 24 hours from death for burial in accordance with Islamic belief.

In his opening statement, Go lamented the fact that despite a law in place, the practice of detaining patients remains pervasive.

“Marami pa rin lumalapit sa akin na pamilya ng pasyente, humihingi ng tulong dahil ayaw palabasin sa ospital ang kanilang kamag-anak kahit may promissory note na,” he said.

Republic Act 9439 was enacted in 2007 to address the issue of hospital detention. Under the measure, patients are allowed to leave the hospital or clinic so long as they execute a promissory note covering their unsettled obligation. The measure, however, does not include patients who are confined in private rooms.

“This has to stop. Detaining a patient makes the problem worse because the patient’s extended stay makes his or her hospital bills to grow even higher,” he said.

“This practice ultimately prevents the sick from getting the medical treatment because they fear being detained in the hospital with their hospital bills getting higher and higher each day. This should not be tolerated,” he added.

While expressing his concern for patients who are illegally detained in hospitals, Go acknowledged that hospitals also need to be protected from abusive patients.

“We need to incorporate safeguards that would prevent patients from abusing the law at the expense of the hospitals' own financial survival,” he said.

Quizzing the Department of Health (DOH), Go asked why the practice remains pervasive.

DOH medical specialist Dr. Rosendo Sualog enumerated some of the reasons for the persistence of the illegal practice.

“The law does not cover patients who stay in private rooms, and there are patients unable to pay bills for the private room. There are also those who do not cooperate, such as when they fail to execute a promissory note. Some misinterpret the law,” Sualog said.

Go said the Malasakit Centers will be able to complement the proposed anti-hospital detention measures to assist indigent patients in settling their hospital balance and expenses.

“Unang una, pag na-hostage ‘yung pasyente or cadaver, wala silang pambayad. With Malasakit Center sa ospital, makakahingi sila ng tulong sa iba’t ibang ahensya ng gobyerno. Ang DSWD nakakapagbigay pa ng burial assistance kung kailangan, even pamasahe po,” he said.