A MEMBER of the family gets ill. He is taken by an ambulance to the nearest hospital where his first stopover in a long journey to recovery is the emergency room.
Needing more medical attention, the patient ends up at the hospital’s intensive care unit, known better for its acronym ICU, which charges his family P8,000 per day. By this time, the family’s agony of footing the bills has just begun with the ambulance provider collecting P8,000 for an 18-kilometer trip.
Of course, the family never worries over the huge expenses as long as their loved one gets well and comes home soon with them. But they should be ready for the high cost of confinement. In a hospital, private rooms, especially the suites, are expensive. The usual line of admission personnel is that standard rooms, which cost much less per day, are all occupied.
Don’t believe them. Go around the hospital and, chances are, you would find some rooms still vacant.
Then, be prepared for the worst shocker when a doctor, finding a patient’s recovery hopeless, suggests the use of respirator or ventilator. He does not tell the family if the gadget would make the patient get well—and faster. But he could breathe easier and more comfortably, he assures you.
Then you ask: How much is a respirator? The doctor does not know the answer. How long will the patient use it? It depends. Will it make him healthy again? Not sure about it. If he outlives all the members of his family while he is connected to the respirator, who will take care of him and shoulder his hospital bills? Again, there is no answer.
For the final question: if the patient’s health worsens despite the respirator, who would take him off it? Will you do it, Doc? Think euthanasia? It is a mortal sin. Still, no answer.
* * *
The narration may be fiction but it could happen—and has, in fact, happened. For 10 days—and still counting—I was at the Asian Hospital and Medical Center where my father-in-law is confined. I listened to the stories that families of some patients shared with others. Here are a few of them:
A 57-year-old farmer has been at the ICU of Asian Hospital for more than a month before his family decided to transfer him to the Philippine General Hospital last Saturday. “Wala hong improvement,” said a relative. Not the fault, though, of the hospital doctors, he assured those willing to listen to him. “Baka mahiyang sa PGH,” he said.
Since the family was able to pay the bill at Asian Hospital, they could “buy” more care with their money, or whatever remains of their savings, at PGH, a government hospital that charges much less, or none at all, compared with what an over-staying patient pays in a private hospital.
But before their patient could be discharged, the family was required to present the hospital’s “clean bill of financials.” They settled over P3 million in hospital charges and doctors’ fees for a month’s confinement of a family member.
* * *
“We have been here for a month now,” a man volunteered the information. Then he added: “Spent P1.7 million and more bills are coming.”
Of course, nobody is forcing him or his family to continue seeking medical care for their loved one at Asian Hospital. There is a government-owned medical facility nearby. Why not take the patient there?
Government hospital? A woman, who, perhaps, was not yet 50, said: “No way. They don’t have the facilities that Asian Hospital has.”
She knew what she was talking about, having been treated for pneumonia at Asian Hospital a few years ago. Had she thought of the high cost of AHMC’s medical care, she said she would not know what could have happened to her.
How about expenses? She admitted she was too poor to have availed herself of Asian Hospital’s costly medical services, but she managed to pay her bills by turning to her relatives who visited her and contributed to her hospital funds.
* * *
Ah, yes, relatives are dependable when you need them most. They don’t think of their financial assistance as being tax deductible when they spend part of their savings for others. In other words, they never think corporate as AHMC does. Just spell out the acronyms, add Incorporated to it and you have a stock corporation headed by a president who is also chief executive officer.
When you run a corporation, you think of revenues and the resulting net profits, which AHMC, like other private hospitals, needs to acquire more modern medical equipment. Without these earnings, Asian Hospital would not have been able to build a new10-story building that would soon be operational.
The expansion may be part of Asian Hospital’s strategy of thinking corporate whereby non-doctor executives manage the resources while the doctors and nurses provide the heart that cares for the patients.