Hospitals to face penalties for detaining patients, cadavers, Senators warn

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Senators Christopher "Bong" Go and Risa Hontiveros during the Senate committee hearing on hospital detention

Sen. Risa Hontiveros and Sen. Christopher “Bong” Go gave warnings to penalize hospitals for “detaining” or not discharging patients who are unable to pay for their hospital bills. 

Senate committee on health and demohraphy held a hearing on Monday concerning hospital detention of poor patients and Muslim cadavers. 

During the hearing, the committee tackled the Senate Bill (SB) 166, or the proposed Strengthened Anti-Hospital Detention Law. 

Hontinveros filed the said bill to strengthen the Republic Act (RA) No. 9436 and implement stricter penalties against hospitals and clinics that refuse to discharge patients, even those deceased, having difficulties settling their medical expenses. 

Under SB 166, hospital executives may be penalized of P1 million and be imprisoned for six years maximum for doing such practice. Erring hospitals could also have their licenses revoked once found guilty.

Alongside Hontiveros’ bill, the Senate also deliberated Sen. Aquino Pimentel III’s SB 697, which seeks to ban the withholding cadavers of Muslims in any medical institution. Under this bill, hospitals should release corpse within 24 hours from the moment of death, in respect to Islamic belief. 

Go says hospital detention has to stop

Go, chair of the committee, mentioned that hospital detention remains prevalent even as a law for it exists. 

“Until now, many families of patients come to me seeking help because hospitals refuse to discharge their loved ones even if they’ve already issued promissory notes,” the neophyte senator said.

In 2007, RA 9439 was enacted in order to address problems in hospitals that refuse to dismiss their patients. This law allows patients, excluding those confined in private rooms, to leave hospitals as long as they submit a promissory note stating their unsettled bills. 

Go said this has to stop since withholding the release of a patient “makes the problem worse because the patient’s extended stay makes his or her hospital bills grow even higher.”

As for the confinement of Muslim cadavers, hospitals oppose Islamic belief, wherein burying the deceased as soon as possible is necessary. 

On a different note, Go also recognized the need for hospitals to be protected from abusive patients. 

“[W]e need to incorporate safeguards that would prevent patients from abusing the law at the expense of the hospitals’ financial survival,” he said. 

Meanwhile, Dr. Rosendo Sualog of the Department of Health (DOH) mentioned some of the causes why this still persists. 

“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.  

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