What can we do if the hospital administrator refuses to allow the patient to go home? My sister was confined last month because of a bladder problem. It was an emergency situation so we were forced to bring her to the nearest private hospital to our house. After she was treated in the emergency room, she was transferred to the charity ward. It has been a week since we were told by the doctor that she can be discharged and to just continue her medication at home. However, the administrator would not allow her to leave unless we settle the entire bill. He kept on insisting that they are running a private hospital so payment is necessary.
Right now, we cannot pay the full amount even if we want to because we are just relying on the support our brother is sending us. He works as a domestic helper in Hong Kong and he usually sends us money every quarter of the year. What can my sister do? The bill is just adding up the longer she stays in the hospital. I hope you can advise us on what to do.
Your sister can consider talking with the hospital administrator and offer to execute a promissory note or undertaking that she will settle her unpaid hospital bill on a given date. Such promissory note must be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker. Once this has been complied with, your sister should be able to leave the hospital premises. This course of action is recognized under Republic Act (R.A.) No. 9439. Section 2 of said law provides:
“SEC. 2. Patients who have fully or partially recovered and who already wish to leave the hospital or medical clinic but are financially incapable to settle, in part or in full, their hospitalization expenses, including professional fees and medicines, shall be allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic, with a right to demand the issuance of the corresponding medical certificate and other pertinent papers required for the release of the patient from the hospital or medical clinic upon the execution of a promissory note covering the unpaid obligation. The promissory note shall be 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. x x x Provided, however, that patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.”
We wish to emphasize that the foregoing provision is applicable to government and private hospitals alike, with the only exception that the same cannot be invoked by patients who stay in private rooms (Par. III, Implementing Rules and Regulations, R. A. No. 9439).
Your sister may institute a complaint against the said administrator and all other concerned hospital personnel if they will still restrain her from being discharged despite compliance with the foregoing procedure. It bears stressing that any officer or employee of the hospital or medical clinic who violates the provisions of R. A. No. 9439 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations shall be punished by a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000, or imprisonment of not less than one month, but not more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the proper court(Section 3, R. A. No. 9439; Par. V (B) (3), IRR, Ibid).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org