Duterte signs bill increasing penalties for hospitals refusing emergency patients

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HOSPITALS and clinics demanding deposits before treating emergency patients will now face higher penalties after President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the bill into law on Thursday.

Under Republic Act 10932, which strengthened the anti-hospital deposit law, ”any official, medical practitioner or employee of the hospital or medical clinic who violates the [law’s] provisions,” will now face fines not less than P100,000.00 but not more than 300,000.00. Similarly, fines for hospitals or clinics found to have violated the provisions of the new law has been increased from P100,000-500,000 to P500,000 to P1 million.

The new law is entitled ”An Act Strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law by Increasing the Penalties for the Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Administer Appropriate Initial; Medical Treatment and Support in Emergency Serious Cases, amending for the Purpose of Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, otherwise known as ‘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,’ as Amended by Republic Act No. 8344, and for Other Purposes.” A copy of which was made public yesterday.

It amended and increased the fines indicated in R.A 8344 enacted on June 5, 1997 and adopted in Feb. 18, 1998.

The bill, according to its sponsor and author Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, is said to protect “the rights and interests of patients from abuse, and to improve the country’s health profession.”

R.A. 10932 also mandates the creation of a Health Facilities Oversight Board, under the Health Facilities and Services regulatory Bureau of the Department of Health (DoH), that will look into all complaints for violation of the said law.

An official with a minimum rank of Director from the DoH shall sit as the chair of the Board. Other members are a representative from the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), from the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), from private health institutions, and three representatives from nongovernment organizations pushing for patients’ rights and public health, with one as a licensed physician.

The Board is also empowered to impose administrative sanctions including revocation of the health facility’s license.

The Senate Bill of R.A. 10932 was co-authored by Senators Aquilino L. Pimentel III, Vicente C. Sotto III, Franklin M. Drilon, and Richard J. Gordon.

The Anti-Hospital Deposit law was first passed on June 5, 1997. — Kristine Joy V. Patag