When hospitals do not discharge patients

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Persida Acosta

Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
We brought my nephew for confinement in a private hospital because it is the hospital nearest to our residence. Even if he stayed at the charity ward only, his hospital bills were too much for us to pay immediately. We cannot bring home my nephew yet because the hospital did not accept our promissory note for the balance of our bill. The staff told us that execution of promissory notes is allowed in government hospitals only. Is this true?
Therese

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Dear Therese,
Republic Act (R.A.) 9439 or the Anti-Hospital Detention Act makes it unlawful for any hospital or medical clinic to detain or to otherwise cause, directly or indirectly, the detention of patients who have fully or partially recovered or have been adequately attended to or who may have died, for reasons of non-payment in part or in full of hospital bills or medical expenses. This law applies to both government and private hospitals. Only patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this law. Section 2 of R.A. 9439 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. 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 for the same: Provided, however, That patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.”

Any hospital or medical clinic detaining or indirectly or directly causing the detention of a patient by reason of non-payment may be penalized in accordance with the provisions of the Anti-Hospital Detention Act. For purposes of this law, detention occurs when all the following are present: 1) the patient who is partially or fully recovered has expressed his/ her intention to leave the hospital or medical clinic, or the attending physician has issued a discharge order; 2) the patient is not confined in a private room and is financially incapable to settle in part or in full the corresponding hospital bills or medical expenses/ hospitalization expenses; 3) the patient has executed a promissory note covering the unpaid hospital bills or medical expenses/hospitalization expenses; and 4) the officer or employee of the hospital or medical clinic responsible for releasing the patient has restrained him from leaving the hospital premises (Rule V, Implementing Rules and Regulations of R.A. No 9439).

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be remi nded that this advice is based solely on the facts that 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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