PGH emergency room not a 'public place', data privacy lawyer says

PGH emergency room not a 'public place', data privacy lawyer says

Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - August 21, 2018 - 11:07am

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine General Hospital is a public hospital but it is not a public place and taking videos there risks the privacy rights of patients, doctors and staff, a data privacy lawyer says.

Although it has public funding, the PGH is not an open space like a park or a town plaza.

"ER yun eh. Diba pag ganyan, usually kung anu-ano na itsura ng mga tao? Pag emergency, kunwari may na nabaril or nasaksak, minsan nahuhubaran na yun pasyente para i-treat di ba? (It's an emegency room and sometimes, in emergencies like when someone has been shot or stabbed, sometimes they take the patient's clothes off for treatment)," Cecilia Soria, a data privacy attorney, told Philstar.com in an online exchange on Tuesday.

"And even the fact that a person was in the ER, even that fact, baka hindi natin gusto na i-publicize di ba (you might not want to make that public, right)?" she added.

Newspaper columnist Mon Tulfo, who has been criticized for posting a video of him at the emergency room of the PGH despite a hospital policy against taking videos and without consent from patients there, has refused to apologize for nor take it down.

The PGH this week called out Tulfo for compromising the performance of the ER services and the efficiency of the hospital's medical personnel.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the behavior of Mr. Ramon Tulfo as completely unacceptable and unbecoming  especially from a supposedly veteran journalist seeking help  for the  victim his vehicle had bumped," PGH said in a statement.

Tulfo: Let the people judge the video

PGH asked for a public apology from Tulfo and a commitment for him to take down the viral video as soon as possible, as well as all "objectionable related posts."

"It is the sole purpose of PGH to save lives. It is a difficult and often daunting task especially considering the realities of PGH. In this, our doctors are united in dedicating their lives," it said.

But Tulfo has insisted that he will not apologize for his actions at the hospital's emergency room

Justifying his actions, Tulfo said in areport in The STAR that he needed to take the video for "future legal purpose." He also dismissed the hospital's policy of no video-taking as it is a public place.

“Let the people judge the video,” Tulfo said.

Data privacy

Soria said that while there are legal reasons to take videos — for example, to document that the child that Tulfo's driver hit in Navotas was brought to the PGH — the "data subjects", in this case everyone on the video, should have been "fully informed of the purpose and use of the video recording and posting."

The Data Privacy Act of 2012 allows the processing of private information under certain principles like proportionality, which means it should not be "excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are collected and processed." 

She said: "If the intent is to prove that the child was brought to the hospital, you can prove this without taking a video, and certainly without posting the video online pa." 

There was also no need to show the doctor handling triage nor the other patients at the emergency room 

"Note that he did not just violate the data subject rights of the people involved in his case, pati yun ibang pasyente na walang kinalaman eh nakita sa camera (but even of the other patients who were not involved but were caught on camera)," Soria said.

"Your face is your personal data," she stressed, and taking a photo or video of someone "is already personal data processing."

Tulfo's PGH incident

On the evening of August 15, Tulfo brought a nine-year-old child who had been run over by a vehicle that was part of his convoy, to the PGH emergency room.

The child was discharged a day after being brought to the hospital following medical workups such as a cranial CT scan.

"The child was well and stable with only minor abrasions," PGH said.

Tulfo, however, still posted the video on Facebook despite the pleas of PGH Director Gerardo Legaspi, who had intervened to diffuse the tense situation. Tulfo claimed that the doctor at the triage desk was arrogant, threatened to expose him and file a case before the Professional Regulation Commission.

PGH clarified that upon being brought to the triage desk, patients are assessed according to severity of injury or iollness and provided necessary medical intervention.

"This is done to ensure that those in danger of dying from illness or injury are attended to before anybody else. The triage officer of that night attended to the victim and while attempting to perform his tasks, he saw that several of the staff of Mr. Tulfo were taking video recordings of the victim and himself," the hospital said.

Tulfo shouted at, cursed several times and gave the "dirty finger" to the doctor, who was only implementing PGH policy prohibiting video recording of the minor victim.

This was a violation of the minor victim and the mother's right to privacy under the Data Privacy Act, the hospital said.

"The videotaping was done without the prior consent of the mother. Worse, the video recording was of  no benefit to the victim whose primary need of the moment was medical assistance," PGH said.

"It was obvious from the video that the mother was  anxious and apprehensive, trying to cover the face of her child, who already traumatized by the accident, was being further subjected to the verbally violent scene," it added.

Tulfo's invectives and insults against the hospital personnel could be heard on the audio, which has since gone viral on social media.

Legal implications

Legal actions that may be taken against Tulfo will be up to the discretion of the ER doctor, who "did not deserve to have his reputation and character besmirched."

"We would like to state however, that we empathize that he was deeply humiliated by the incident which occurred before the ER patients and before other PGH personnel, especially because  he could not defend his honor right there and then for the sake of  avoiding  further disruptions in the ER. We stand by him whatever his choice may be," PGH said.

Further legal actions on the posting of the video on social media, which is illegal, would also be on the discretion of the hospital's lawyers.

The PGH said Tulfo also violated the Code of Ethics of Media Practitioners under the 2007 Broadcast Code of the Philippines by including the face of the minor victim in the video without consent.

"We reiterate that at no point was necessary medical  intervention withheld from the victim when the child  was at the Triage of the ER of PGH. If ever there was any disruption  in service to the victim  it was directly caused by the  behavior of Mr. Ramon Tulfo," the hospital stressed. — with Jonathan de Santos

  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with