Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros on Tuesday conducted a senate inquiry on the reported violations of several hospitals under Republic Act 8344, otherwise known as the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, where she vowed to punish erring medical institutions.
“No one should be refused adequate and quality medical care or unnecessarily die just because they are poor. Profit should not reign supreme over the health needs of the people. It not only negates the country’s achievements in achieving universal healthcare, it is also inhumane. Ang deposito ay mababayaran, ang buhay na nawala ay hindi mapapalitan,” Hontiveros, Chair of the Senate Committee on the Health and Demography, said in her opening statement.
During the hearing, several witnesses testified that University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Hospital and the Southeast Asian Medical Center allegedly refused to follow RA 8344, which prohibits any medical institutions to demand any deposit or any other form of advance payment, as a prerequisite for admission or medical treatment of a patient to prevent death or serious harm.
According to the witnesses Siarra and Anjo Pelayo, UST Hospital’s refusal to give emergency care to the former led to her miscarriage. Another witness Emiliano Del Rosario said his wife Sisa was refused care in Southeast Asian Medical Center due to non-payment of deposit that led to the worsening of her condition and death.
“Ito ay mga taong na hindi walang-wala. Mayroon silang dalang pera. However, the alleged erring hospitals denied them medical care by insisting on their prescribed deposits before hospital treatment. This is unacceptable,” Hontiveros said.
To address this growing concern, Hontiveros filed Senate Bill No. 216, which seeks to amend the existing Anti-Hospital Deposit Law and impose heavier fines for hospital violators. Her bill recommends that penalties for violations of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law should be increased from the current P20,000-P100,000 to P500,000-P1 million, exclusive of damages that may be rewarded to the patient-complainant.
“Nararapat lamang na wakasan na ang ganitong mga gawain sapagkat buhay ang nakasalalay dito. Ito ay pwedeng nauulit at mauulit pa sa iba pang pasyente,” she added.
The said senate bill also seeks to create a Health Facilities Oversight Board, also known as the “Sumbungan Board”, which will be composed by the Department of Health (DoH), hospital associations and patient rights’ advocates. “The primary duty of hospitals and other medical institutions is to save lives. This should be promoted at all times,” Hontiveros said.