Hontiveros: Prison, fines await hospitals demanding deposits from patients

Risa Hontiveros
Risa Hontiveros

SENATOR Risa Hontiveros Monday warned that officers and workers of hospitals demanding deposits from emergency patients before providing treatment may face hefty fines and even imprisonment, as she urged government to ensure the strict implementation of Republic Act No. 10932 or the strengthened "Anti-Hospital Deposit Law" amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Mas mahalaga ang buhay ng tao kesa sa kita ng iilan, lalo na ngayong panahon ng matinding krisis. 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," Hontiveros, author of the said law, explained.

Hontiveros issued the warning following several reports of emergency patients who died after they were denied admission by several hospitals due to their inability to pay an initial deposit or fee. She pointed to the cases 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 wear (PPEs) of their medical staff, and 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. 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 said.

Hontiveros explained that under the Strengthened Anti Hospital Deposit Law,  officers of hospitals which 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 P1,000,000, while errant hospital employees will face imprisonment of up to two years and four months, and a fine of up to P300,000. Any hospital which violates the law thrice will have its license to operate revoked.

The senator then called on the DOH to ensure that the Strengthened Anti Hospital Deposit Law is effectively implemented nationwide, particularly by setting up the Health Facilities Oversight Board or the so-called "Sumbungan Board," with which people can file complaints against hospitals which 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. 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 concluded.