By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Monday called for a stricter implementation of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law amid reports some hospitals are turning away patients while the government is grappling with a COVID-19 crisis.
Hontiveros warned that under Republic Act No. 10932 or the strengthened “Anti-Hospital Deposit Law,” any hospital officer or worker demanding deposits from emergency patients before providing treatment may face hefty fines and even imprisonment.
“Mas mahalaga ang buhay ng tao kesa sa kita ng iilan, lalo na ngayong panahon ng matinding krisis (A person’s life is more important than profit, especially now at a time we are facing a very serious health crisis),” said Hontiveros, primary author of the law.
“Hospitals must comply with the law and must not withhold live-saving medical treatment from persons who need it the most—or face legal penalties for doing so,” she said.
The senator cited the case of Katherine Bulatao who was turned away by six hospitals, including one hospital which wanted her family to pay P4,000 for the personal protective equipment (PPEs) of their medical staff.
She also cited another patient, Josefina Barros, who was refused treatment by nine hospitals, including one which demanded that her family deposit P30,000 before she could be admitted.
“Hindi katanggap-tanggap ang ganitong kawalan ng puso at pagkalinga sa mga kababayan natin (We strongly condemn such heartless and lack of support for our people),” she pointed out.
“These cases are clear violations of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, and I urge the Department of Health (DOH) and our law enforcement agencies to immediately investigate and charge those legally liable for these incidents,” she stressed.
Under the Strengthened Anti Hospital Deposit Law, officers of hospitals who demand any form of deposit or advance payment as a pre-requisite for emergency treatment or care of a patient will face imprisonment of up to six years and a fine of up to P1-million.
Also under the law, errant hospital employees will face imprisonment of up to two years and four months, and a fine of up to P300,000. Any hospital that violates the law thrice will have its license to operate revoked.
Hontiveros said the Department of Health (DOH) must ensure that the Strengthened Anti Hospital Deposit Law is effectively implemented nationwide.
In particular, she said the DOH should set up more Health Facilities Oversight Board or the so-called “Sumbungan Board,” so people can file complaints against hospitals that violate the said law.
“The ongoing pandemic is not an excuse for hospitals to commit abuses and deny emergency medical care to those who have less in life,” she said.
“In this time of health emergency, government should see to it that laws protecting the people’s health are observed and that all Filipinos, whether rich or poor, will have access to effective and timely medical care,” Hontiveros stressed.