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Philippine hospitals take government to court over ‘no deposit’ law

Private hospitals fight back against President Rodrigo Duterte’s effort to impose stiffer penalties for clinics that demand deposits before giving emergency treatment

Judy Ann Bautista, 18, who was injured in a bus accident, is assisted after being transferred to a hospital in Marikina, east of Manila, Philippines, 20 February 2017. Photo: EPA/Mark R. Cristino

Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) is set to file an appeal for a temporary restraining order with the Supreme Court against the newly enacted Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, which it says will only make it harder for hospital to expand services in the country.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed an act on August 3 to prohibit any medical personnel to “request, solicit, demand or accept any deposit or any other form of advance payment as a prerequisite for administering basic emergency care to any patient.”
Under the law, firmer punishments will be inflicted to any hospitals and medical clinics that refuse to administer suitable initial medical action and care in emergency cases.
However, PHAP president Rustico Jimenez told philstar that the law “will be subject to abuse,” encouraging patients to seek treatment that they don’t intend to pay for.
“Patients are already using this law to not deposit and still be able to be admitted in hospitals,” he said. “In fact, one hospital in Bicol is closing because of this. That’s our concern.”
Jimenez added that there was already a law enacted in 1997 that punished hospitals who refuse to treat patients with emergency of serious cases. The new law, however, significantly increases the penalties for offending hospital staff and executives.
The new law would punish violators with fines of P100,000 to P300,000 ($1,950 to $5,860 U.S) and up to 28 months in prison. Under the previous law, fines ranged from P20,000 to P100,000 ($390 to $1,950 U.S) with no possibility of jail time.
Senator Risa Hontiveros said last week she saw no reason for hospitals to push back against the strengthened law as it would benefit the poor and save lives.
“Why do they need to question it before the Supreme Court if they follow the law?” Hontiveros said in a press conference.
Jimenez said private hospitals were be targeted for wider problems in a health care sector that was falling short of meeting the needs of the population of more than 100 million people.
“The problem is the government does not consider us as partners in health care delivery although we do what the public hospitals cannot do,” he told philstar. “This is giving an impression that all of us demand deposit before serving our patients.
The Commission on Human Rights, however, has also lauded the move.
“We recognize that its passage advances every Filipino’s right to health or more specifically, broadening the access to urgent or emergency health services – guaranteed both in domestic laws and international conventions,” it said in a statement.
“Equality and non-discrimination are fundamental human rights principles and critical components of the right to health.”

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