Private hospitals urge SC to nullify anti-deposit law

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 02 2017 11:26 PM

Private hospitals and clinics have urged the Supreme Court (SC) to declare unconstitutional the new law that imposes higher penalties for health facilities that refuse to take in and provide treatment to emergency patients who fail to pay deposits or advance payments.

The petition was filed with the high court by the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPi), which sought the nullification of Republic Act No. 10932, also known as An Act Strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law by Increasing the Penalties for the Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Administer Appropriate Initial
Treatment and Support in Emergency or Serious Cases. 

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and the Department of Health (DOH) were named respondents in the petition.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed RA No. 10932 into law on August 3, 2017.

Petitioners argued the duty to administer treatment and other procedures imposed upon hospitals, medical clinics, their management and staff is “unreasonable” and "amounts to denial of due process.”

They further said the solidary liability in the law, which imposes fines and penalties, is “unjust, excessive and oppressive, and thus amounts to denial of due process.” 

Petitioners said the fines, which could go as high as P1 million are not commensurate to the act or omission that is being penalized.

"The act or omission being penalized by the questioned law is simply the failure on the part of a health care provider to render medical help in an emergency or serious situation or the making of that help conditional upon the payment of a deposit which help he/she/it is expected to willingly oblige without delay."

“By comparison… the fine imposable for refusal of a public officer to lend his/her cooperation to a competent court for the administration of justice which he/she is likewise expected to willingly oblige without delay is only at most[ P 200,000.00] or only one-fifth of that imposed under R.A. 10932,” the petition read.

Petitioners also argued that the law's presumption of liability clause "is repugnant to the constitutional presumption of innocence,” and “essentially reverses the presumption of innocence.” Section 5 (presumption of liability) of the law holds accountable the hospital, clinic, and attending medical practitioner or staff liable in the event of death, permanent disability, serious impairment, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child, stemming from denial of admission to a health facility.

Petitioners also slammed Section 7 of the law, which directs PhilHealth to reimburse the cost of basic emergency care given to “poor and indigent patients,” and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to provide medical assistance to the same, for being violative of the equal protection clause; and Section 8, which grants tax deductions to hospitals and medical clinics that incur other expenses surrounding emergency care to “poor and indigent patients” which are not reimbursed by PhilHealth.

Petitioners argued these provisions amount to involuntary servitude.

The group also feared that the cost of health care will skyrocket as doctors at the emergency departments “would be compelled” to admit patients even if they are not convinced that the patients’ conditions require admission.

The petition sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order or writ of preliminary injunction to halt the implementation of the law.