My wife was brought to one of the private hospitals here in Taguig City (Metro Manila) recently. After a successful operation, she was transferred to a private room there. When I inquired about our bill, I was shocked to know that it had already accumulated to half a million pesos. I cannot afford to pay the hospital bills, and I do not have any property to sell to defray our expenses.
The hospital discharged my wife last week, but she was not allowed to leave because of unsettled bills. One of the patients in the hospital suggested that I execute a promissory note. With this, she said, my wife would be allowed to leave; otherwise, the hospital would be violating Republic Act 9439. Is this correct?
Under Republic Act (RA) 439, or An Act Prohibiting the Detention of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics on Grounds of No-payment of Hospital Bills or Medical Expenses, private room is defined as “a single occupancy room or a ward-type room divided by either a permanent or semi-permanent partition (except curtains) not to exceed 4 patients per room who are admitted for diagnosis, treatment and other forms of health care maintenance”(IV K, Ibid.).
Section 2 of the same law provides “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. In the case of a deceased patient, the corresponding death certificate and other documents required for interment and other purposes shall be released to any of his surviving relatives requesting the same: Provided, however, that patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.” (Emphasis supplied)
The execution of a promissory note must comply with the conditions set forth in the abovementioned law. But considering that your wife was confined in a private room, the provisions of Section 2 of RA 9439 find no application in your case.
We hope that we were able to answer your concern. 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 email@example.com