“The rights and lives of emergency patients are non-negotiable.”
This was the statement issued by Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros in response to the threat issued by the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) to file for a temporary restraining order (TRO) before the Supreme Court to block the implementation of Republic Act No. 10932 or the Strengthened Anti-Hospital Deposit Law.
Hontiveros, who is the principal sponsor and author of the law, said that there is nothing objectionable in the said law. She said that the enhanced law is widely supported by different sectors of society and the national and local government units.
“Pati ba naman ang buhay ng mga pasyente gusto pang pagdebatehan sa Korte Suprema? Common sense and basic humanity dictate that lives are more important than profit. Buhay muna bago kita. Ang deposito mababayaran, ang buhay na nawala ay hindi na mapapalitan,” Hontiveros said.
However, Hontiveros said that she is confident that majority of the country’s hospitals are compliant with the law and contributing to address the public health care gap. “I think those who are opposed to this law are few. Maliwanag ang layunin ng batas. Hindi rin ito bago. Bagkus, pinalakas at ginawa natin na mas tumutugon ang batas sa araw-araw na realidad ng mga emergency patients. pinalawig din natin natin ang depenisyon ng kasong emergency para isama ang panganganak,” she explained.
Incentives for compliant hospitals
Hontiveros, who is also the Vice-chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography, said that the law provides for incentives to compliant hospitals. She said that the cost of the basic emergency care incurred shall be tax deductible in favor of the said hospital or medical clinic that has given basic emergency medical services to the poor and indigent patients.
“While we address the abusive practices of some hospitals, we will also make sure that those that are compliant with the law are duly recognized and rewarded,” Hontiveros said.
The new law, which was signed last Friday, provides for stricter penalties to hospitals that demand any deposit or other forms of advance payment as a pre-requisite for admission or medical treatment of an emergency patient. This include four to six years of imprisonment and fines ranging from Php100,000 to Php1,000,000.
The law also gives authority to the Department of Health (DoH) to revoke the license of a health facility after three repeated violations committed pursuant to an established policy of the hospital or clinic or upon the instruction of its management. It also calls for the establishment of a Health Facilities Oversight Board tasked to probe the claims of patients who were denied treatment and services during emergency situations due to their inability to pay hospital deposit.
It was reported that PHAP Spokesperson Rustico Jimenez said that they will challenge the constitutionality of the law and seek a TRO to block the enhanced law.