Duterte strengthens anti-hospital deposit law

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Getting medical attention is a major concern of Filipinos.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday signed the law increasing the penalties for hospitals which refuse to give initial medical treatment to patients without paying a deposit.

Republic Act No. 10932, or the "Act strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law," effectively amends Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, which prohibits the "demand of deposits or advance payments for the confinement or treatment of patients in hospitals and medical clinics in certain cases."

The law states that in emergency or serious cases, the officers, employees, and medical practictioners of a hospitals and medical facilities must administer basic emergency care to patients without demanding any form of advance payments.

If the hospital or clinic's facilities are inadequate for the treatment, however, the attending physician may transfer the patient to a more capable clinic after consent has been given.

The law also says the local government unit "must allow the free use of its emergency vehicle to transport the patient" if no ambulance is available for use during the transfer. A staff nurse with advanced cardiovascular life support certification or its equivalent must also accompany the patient in the vehicle.

"All hospitals are required to post at their entrance a notice indicating the classification level of the hospital as licensed by the Department of Health and the list of medical services that the hospital is authorized to perform," the law adds.

Violators of the law will either face prison time of six months to two years and four months, a fine of P100,000 to P300,000, or both.

If the violation is committed pursuant to a hospital policy or instruction of the management, "the director or officer of such hospital or clinic responsible for the formulation and implementation of such policy shall…suffer imprisonment of four to six years, or a fine of not less than ₱500,000, but not more than ₱1 million, or both."

The Department of Health will then revoke the healths facility's license to operate if the violation is committed thrice.

The law adds the Health Facilities Oversight Board under the Health Facilities and Services Regulatory Bureau will monitor such violations.

The Board will be composed of representatives from private health institutions, the Health Department, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), the Philippine Medical Association, and three from nongovernment organizations with public health advocacies.

According to the law, "PhilHealth shall reimburse the cost of basic emergency care and transportation services incurred by the hospital or medical clinic for the medical services given to poor and indigent patients."

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, vice chairperson of the Senate committee on health, thanked Duterte on Friday for approving the law she authored, highlighting its importance especially for the poor.

"I thank my fellow senators for supporting this law and the Executive branch for signing the measure before the expiry of the 30-day period given under the Constitution when the bill would have lapsed into law," Hontiveros said in a statement.

"Mas mahalaga ang buhay kesa kita. Dahil sa batas na ito, wala nang mahirap na itataboy ng mga abusadong hospital. Wala nang mahirap na magmamakaawa para sa medikal na kalinga," she added.

[Translation: Health is more important than income. With this law, abusive hospitals can no longer refuse the poor. The poor don't need to beg for medical care.]

The senator also emphasized the government's duty to provide adequate health care to its citizens.

"This law is a reflection of this duty and of our continued commitment to improve and provide sufficient health care to the sectors of society that need it the most. People who need emergency medical care can now be assured of stronger rights under the law," Hontiveros said.