Hospital’s refusal to accept patients a regulated practice

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
My friend’s daughter was rushed to the hospital because her allergies worsened to the point that she had difficulty in breathing. The nurses initially refused to accept my friend’s daughter because they could not pay a deposit of at least P5,000.00. Her husband argued with the nurses and threatened them with a lawsuit if anything bad happens to their daughter. So they were admitted to the emergency and she was given treatment. Now, she is still undergoing some tests to determine her condition. What I would like to know, is it right for nurses or even hospitals to refuse to accept a patient under the same circumstances? Assuming my friend’s daughter gets completely treated and they still do not have enough money to pay for the hospital bills, can the hospital refuse to release their daughter?
Bob43

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Dear Bob43,
Hospitals often require payment of deposits prior to their admission so as to ensure that patients or their families have sufficient funds to answer for their initial medical needs. This particular practice of hospitals, however, is not without limit. In fact, the same is regulated by existing laws.

Particularly, Republic Act (RA) 8344, which amended Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, declares it unlawful, in emergency or serious cases, for any proprietor, president, director, manager or any other officer and/or medical practitioner or employee of a hospital or medical clinic to request, solicit, demand or accept 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 or permanent disability. (Section 1, RA 8344). An emergency case is defined as a condition or state of a patient wherein based on the objective findings of a prudent medical officer on duty for the day, there is immediate danger and where delay in initial support and treatment may cause loss of life or cause permanent disability to the patient. On the other hand, serious case refers to 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 (Section 2 (a) and (b), RA 8344).

From the facts that you mentioned, it can be said that your friend’s daughter, at the time she was rushed to the hospital, was experiencing a serious medical predicament. Hence, it would have been illegal if the nurses or the hospital insisted on refusing to attend to the needs of the child taking into account the provisions of the above-stated law.

We want to emphasize, though, that your friend will still have to settle their financial obligations with the hospital for the confinement and treatment of their daughter. We cannot deny the fact that a contract was forged between the parties. Hence, they need to pay whatever is due to the hospital for the services and medicines they have provided.

Nonetheless, if the child was admitted in a charity ward or in a non-private room and she has fully or partly recovered and is prepared for discharge, the hospital cannot refuse to release her on account of her inability to pay for the hospital bills including professional fees and medicines, provided that her parents execute a promissory note covering their unpaid obligation and the same is secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation. This is in consonance with Section 2 of RA 9439, or “An Act Prohibiting the Detention of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics on Grounds of Nonpayment of Hospital Bills or Medical Expenses.”

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net

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