Press Release
October 14, 2019

October 14, 2019

First of all, I would like to thank our Chair, Senator Bong Go for calling this hearing on one of our priority health measures in the Senate, the Strengthened Anti-Hospital Detention Bill. I would like to acknowledge the original sponsor of this law 12 years ago, Sen. Pia Cayetano who I'm sure is still supportive of its intent which is basically to prevent the practice of detaining patients or deceased bodies in hospitals due non-payment of hospital bills. Ang mga ospital ay dapat nang-gagamot, hindi nagkukulong ng mga tao. Ang mga ospital ay lugar gamutan, hindi kulungan.

Hospitals are health sanctuaries, not prisons. Patients are not prisoners. Sila ay mga pasyente, hindi mga detainees. Sa isang panahon na laganap ang iba't-ibang uri ng sakit at epidemiya, at kung saan ang ilan sa ating mga ospital ay ginagawa pang mistulang hotel ng mga convicted drug at crime lords para sa kanilang "staycation" mula sa Bilibid, ang mga ospital ay dapat nagbibigay ng pag-asa at lunas, hindi dagdag pasakit at pagdurusa.

While I understand that costs of hospitals must be covered for continued operations, the rights and liberty of patients are non-negotiable. Hospitals should be places where people suffering from various ailments find ample medical treatment and care in the hands of doctors, nurses and other health professionals. Hospitals must not be seen as prisons depriving patients of their liberty in the event that they have difficulty settling their medical bills.

The protection against any means to vitiate a person's free will and any form of detention is a right guaranteed under the Philippine Constitution. It is a widely accepted tenet in health care that the patient has a right to make decisions regarding medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment.

Republic Act. 9439 entitled "An Act Prohibiting the Detention of Patients in Hospitals and Medical Clinics on Grounds of Nonpayment of Hospital Bills or Medical Expenses" was enacted in 2007 (sponsored by Sen. Pia Cayetano as Committee on Health Chair, authored by Sen. Manny Villar and Sen. Sergio Osmena III) to curtail the unscrupulous practice of refusing the discharge of patients, effectively detaining due to their inability to fully or partially pay for their medical expenses. The law also prohibits the undesirable practice of refusing to release to their families the body of a deceased patient with unpaid bills.

Twelve years on, the practice has persisted. May mga kwento pa rin ng pasyente who are not discharged or are not able to get pertinent documents regarding their admission if they are unable to settle their hospital bills. May mga kaso pa nga na lumalaki lalo yung bill nila because di sila dinidischarge kahit clinically magaling na sila. There are still stories of families not being able to get the bodies of their deceased loved ones na mas lalo pang nakakadagdag sa kanilang pagluluksa. Often, it is poor Filipino families who are being victimized by this practice. So this has to be stopped.

The RA 11223 or the Universal Health Care Law signed last year is expected to usher sweeping changes in how health care services are financed. Sec 9 of the law specifically provides that there should be no co-payment for patients admitted under a basic accommodations in hospital, whether public or private. With this shift, there should be no more reasons for hospitals to detain patients on account of non-payment of bills. In a way, the RA 9439 and this proposed measure will complement the UHC law by being the indirect enforcer of the provision on zero co-payment on basic accommodations.

So for today's hearing, I just want to listen first to our resource persons. We want to hear their positions and if they have suggestions, we want to hear that too. We want to be fair to all the stakeholders that will be affected by this proposed measure like our patients and health care providers. Later, I'll same ask some operational questions regarding certain sections of the UHC Law and how it will impact this proposed bill.

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