MANILA - The Senate on Monday passed a bill seeking stiffer penalties for hospitals that turn away patients who cannot afford deposits for emergency care.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, sponsor and principal author of Senate Bill 1353, said the proposed measure will increase the financial penalties for violations of the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law.
"Mata-times 5 iyung financial penalty na puwedeng ipataw sa isang ospital na magtataboy sa isang mahirap o buntis na pasyente na dumarating sa emergency room nila," Hontiveros said.
Under the Senate bill, the current P100,000 fine for hospitals refusing to give first aid will increase to P500,000 up to P1 million.
Officials of the erring hospitals meanwhile could face 4 to 6 years of imprisonment.
The Department of Health will also revoke a health facility's license to operate after 3 repeated violations, Hontiveros said.
The bill, she added, also provides for the creation of a Health Facilities Oversight Board under the DOH, which will investigate complaints from patients.
Hontiveros said hospitals would be reimbursed through the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) or offered tax incentives for the costs of providing first aid to indigent patients.
The House of Representatives passed a similar measure last May.
The 2 chambers of Congress are set to convene a bicameral conference committee next week to integrate their versions of the bill.
Hontiveros said she is confident that the measure would be passed before the year ends.
Meanwhile, the Private Hospital Association of the Philippines (PHAPI) claims the proposal to strengthen the anti-hospital deposit law is nothing new.
"Meron na pong batas tungkol diyan. Hindi na po bago 'yan," Rustico Jimenez, president of PHAPI, told DZMM. "Alam niyo naman siyempre politika ngayon. Gusto nila sila ang nag-produce ng batas na 'yan."
Jimenez said it has been their policy to not demand payment or deposit from patients admitted in a hospital's ward. But he reiterated that the law allows them to demand deposit for those admitted in a private room.
"Pag na-admit sa private room, merong karapatan ang ospital humingi ng bayad," he said.
Jimenez admits there are some hospitals that do not follow these policies but as far as he knows these cases have been resolved.
For complaints, he said patients can go directly to the DOH so the hospital can be penalized.
He stressed that these "bad eggs" are only few and that more hospitals are following the law, even going the extra mile in providing service but are not reported in the media.
Jimenez said when a patient has no capacity to pay, they still provide first aid treatment and give free ambulance services so they can transfer him to a public hospital.
"Usually pinapa-istable muna ang pasyente. Gagawan muna ng mga test. Ibibigay mo muna ang gamot. Pag stable na ang pasyente, 'yun na ang time na ita-transfer mo sa government hospital," said Jimenez who added that the government should give private hospitals tax incentives for this.
"Sana po tulungan naman ang private hospitals na makabawi sa gastos na ibibigay sa ganitong pasyente," he said.