HOR COMPLEX, Quezon City (DWDD) – To improve the country’s emergency health care service, the House of Representatives passed on second reading a bill that makes more stringent the law prohibiting hospitals from demanding deposits as a condition for confinement or treatment of patients under certain cases.
HB 5159, principally authored by Rep. Tom Villarin (Akbayan), seeks to amend Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, entitled “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.”
Villarin said that despite the “no balance billing” policy of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) for the benefit of indigents, there still have been reports of private hospitals rejecting patients on account of the patients’ inability to pay for the hospital deposit.
Villarin cited an increase in the number of cases where patients have died simply because they were refused medical attention by private hospital in view of their failure to pay the required deposit.
Should this practice continue, Villarin said that the present statistic of seven out of 10 Filipinos dying without ever seeing a doctor is likely to soar. This is compounded by the fact that 50 percent of barangays in the country do not have a barangay health station, added Villarin.
“Clearly this practice must be stopped. By increasing the penalties for the violation of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, expanding the definition of emergency care to include women in active labor and at risk of miscarriage or fetal distress, and providing incentives for health facilities that provide emergency medical services, a framework where preservation of human life is paramount consideration can be created,” said Villarin.
The bill provides that, “in emergency or serious cases, it shall be unlawful for any proprietor, president, director, manager, or any other officer, and/or medical practitioner or employee of a hospital or medical clinic to demand any deposit or any other form of advance payment as a prerequisite for confinement or medical treatment of a patient in such hospital or medical clinic or to refuse to administer medical treatment and support as dictated by good practice of medicine to prevent death, miscarriage, or permanent disability, or otherwise require payment for basic emergency care services to any patient.”
The bill further provides that by reason of inadequacy of the medical capabilities of the hospital, the attending physician after having administered emergency measures, may transfer the patient to a facility where the appropriate care can be given.
A “serious case” is defined under the bill as “a condition of a patient characterized by gravity or danger wherein based on the objective findings of a prudent medical officer on duty for the day when left unattended to, may cause loss of life or cause permanent disability to the patient, or in the case of a pregnant woman, cause a miscarriage.”
Whereas, a “basic emergency case” is the “response to a situation where there is urgently required medical care and attention, and includes procedures required for initial diagnosis, use of equipment, and supplies in sufficiently addressing the emergency situation, considering the welfare of the patient and other fees incurred at the time of basic emergency response.”
The bills adds that “the case of a woman in active labor, who is already in crowning stage shall be considered as an emergency, and the medical facility shall perform the necessary measures or treatment to ensure that the labor goes well into the separation of baby and placenta.”
Moreover, where there is no ambulance available for use by the hospital or for the emergency transfer of the patient to a facility where the appropriate care shall be given, the local government unit (LGU) where the hospital is located must allow the free use of its emergency vehicle to transport the patient. The hospital must provide a certified staff nurse to accompany the patient in the emergency vehicle.
As a further requirement, a hospital must post at its entrance a notice indicating its Department of Health (DOH) classification level and the list of medical services that it is authorized to perform.
According to the House bill, PhilHealth is required to shoulder all the expenses advanced by hospitals for the emergency medical services given to the poor and indigent patients, subject to its existing policies. Moreover, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) shall provide medical assistance to the basic emergency care needs of the poor and marginalized groups.
Lastly, the bill also provides for penalties for violation thereof, in the form of imprisonment of not less than six months and one day, but not more than two years and four months, or a fine of not less than P100,000, but not more than P300,000, or both.
If the violation is committed pursuant to an established policy of the hospital or upon instruction of its management, the director or officer of such hospital responsible shall suffer imprisonment of four to six years, or a fine of not less than P500,000 but not more than P1 million, or both, without prejudice to damages that may be awarded to the patient-complainant.
In case of three repeated violations, the health facility’s license to operate shall be suspended or revoked by the DOH.
The president, chairman, board of directors or trustees, and other officers of the hospital shall be solidarily liable for the damages that may be awarded by the court to the patient-complainant.
Lastly, the DOH is mandated to create a mediation board to initially settle complaints from private individuals prior to the filing of a formal complaint against a hospital.
Other authors of the bill are Reps. Christopher Belmonte (6th District, Quezon City), Teodoro “Ted” Montoro (AASENSO), Gus Tambunting (2nd District, Parañaque), Jose Panganiban, Jr. CPA, LLB (ANAC-IP), Maria Vida Espinosa Bravo (1st District, Masbate), Ma. Lucille Nava, M.D. (Lone District, Guimaras), Angelina Tan (4th District, Quezon), Rodante Marcoleta (SAGIP), Marlyn Primicias-Agabas (6th District, Pangasinan), Linabelle Ruth VIllarica (4th District, Bulacan), Joaquin Chipeco, Jr. (4th District, Laguna), Manuel Jose “Mannix” Dalipe (2nd District, Zamboanga City), and Edgar Erice (2nd District, Caloocan City). CONGRESS / MCAG