St. Lukes faces suit for holding patient’s body

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Veteran newspaper editor and columnist Fred Rosario has filed with the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office a four-point criminal complaint against St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City and its concerned employees for holding the body of his deceased son in April last year to compel payment of a P1.9-million hospital bill.

The complaints are for violation of Republic Act 9439, on two counts, falsification of a public document and an attempt to grab his property in Quezon City through the legal instrument, Dacion en Pago.

The law says it is unlawful for a hospital or a medical clinic to detain a patient for reasons of non-payment of a hospital bill.

Named respondent for refusing to release the body of Rosario’s son, Alfredo Rosario Jr., who died at the hospital after 26 days of confinement, was Nick Gonzales, a billing clerk.


Despite the hospital’s approval of a promissory note submitted by Rosario, Gonzales refused to release the patient’s body until after Rosario signed under duress a prepared document imposing onerous terms for the payment of the huge hospital bill.

Charged for the second violation of the illegal detention law was Chona Paz, also a billing clerk at the hospital, for refusing to release the patient’s death certificate, causing the postponement of his interment by one day.

Paz was also charged for requiring Rosario to submit a property title covering his house and lot in Fairview, Quezon City, with a fair market value of P12 million and asking him to sign the Dacion en Pago document, stipulating that Rosario had to give up his house and lot in full payment of the P1.9-million hospital bill.

Rosario aborted the virtual attempt of the hospital to take possession of his property by refusing to sign the document. Paz relented from holding the death certificate when Rosario’s two lawyers who were with him at the time threatened to sue her in court.

Rosario also charged Gonzales and four other employees with falsifying a promissory note, junking the one he had submitted, in order to impose a 24-percent interest on the hospital bill.

Named co-respondents were Lino Lacanlale, vice president for finance of the hospital; Remedios Pimentel, junior assistance manager; and Rowena Noble and Amparo Faigal for allowing their signatures to appear in the fraudulent document.

The veteran journalist and his two witnesses said they had never seen the four before and at any time.

Rosario complained that his promissory note, which had been previously accepted by the hospital, offered to pay P40,000 per month in post-dated checks until the full indebtedness was fully paid. It also contained a P400,000 initial payment.

He said imposing the 24-percent interest on the hospital bill, which is a very huge amount, will be stretching his amortization by almost two years. He accused the hospital of usurious practices, unmindful of the heavy burden already suffered by his family in paying the enormous bill.

Rosario assailed the hospital for having no compassion when it put his son’s confinement under the so-called “red tag” status, stopping medical services and requiring the patient’s family to buy his needed medicines.

He has asked the hospital for the payment of P2 million in actual, moral and exemplary damages suffered by his family. Rosario also asked for the payment of P500,000 in attorney’s fees representing the costs of the suit.

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