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Council going after hospitals that turn down poor patients

Ma. Fatima R. Secuya (The Freeman) - April 2, 2016 - 10:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Some hospitals are still refusing to administer initial treatment to patients due to their incapability to pay the bills, which the Cebu City Council is now trying to address.

The council has recently approved an ordinance mandating all hospitals and similar medical clinics or institutions to post a copy of Republic Acts 9439 and 8344 in their premises.

RA 9439 prohibits the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of non-payment of hospital bills or medical expenses.

Meanwhile, RA 8344 penalizes the refusal of hospitals and medical clinics to administer appropriate initial medical treatment and support in emergency or serious cases, amending for the purpose Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, otherwise known as "an act prohibiting the demand of deposits or advance payments for the confinement or treatment of patients in hospitals and medical clinics in certain cases."

Councilor Alvin Dizon, author of the ordinance, said they want the implementation of these laws intensified.

Despite the existence of these national laws, he said, there are still hospitals that violate, and many patients are also not aware of the mandate of both laws.

"It is imperative to constantly remind hospital and medical clinics that their business may be founded for profit but their core business at all times require them to give priority to the health and well-being of their customers and patients," said Dizon.

Under the proposed ordinance, posters about the mentioned laws will have to be posted within hospital premises to remind the hospital management of their obligation and to likewise make the patients more aware.

"This ordinance aims to strengthen and protect patients' rights by increasing their awareness on the laws that protect their rights," said Dizon.

He also pointed out that the ordinance will not mislead the patients' thinking, citing Section 2 of RA 9439, which states that patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.

The same section of the law also states that the promissory note shall be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation.

"As author of the ordinance, we conducted series of consultations in different hospitals in the City of Cebu to seek their comments and suggestions and they have been duly incorporated into this ordinance," said Dizon.

Compliance with the ordinance, the councilor said, is a requisite for the renewal of the hospital's business permit.

The Cebu City Health Department will be the one to monitor the implementation of the ordinance through conducting regular inspections.

As for the posters, according to Dizon, the Cebu City government will be the one to produce them, wherein an amount of P300,000 will be appropriated every two years.

If the medical institution fails to post the required poster or the head of the management fails to orient their frontline personnel, the medical officer or head of hospital can be penalized with a fine of P5,000 or imprisonment of one to six months.

The ordinance still has to go through the approval of Mayor Michael Rama. — (FREEMAN)

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