By MARICEL CRUZ, The Manila Times Reporter
Several congressmen are backing three bills that call for penalizing hospital owners and medical practitioners who refuse to release patients for not fully paying their bills.
Rep. Antonio Yapha Jr. of Cebu, chair of the House Committee on Health, said more than half of his 45-man panel affixed their signatures on House bills 68, 2127 and 2584.
The bills have been consolidated and referred to the House plenary for debate, Yapha added.
Rep. Mayo Almario of Davao Oriental, author of House bill 2127, said while the rights of hospital owners or medical practitioners must be respected, there must be a more humane way of treating patients who, having been adequately attended to, already wish to leave the hospital if not for their unpaid bills.
"We have often heard of stories of patients not being able to leave the hospital or medical clinics simply because they cannot pay their bills. There are cases where parents are forced to leave their newly born child, surviving relatives who cannot claim the body of their loved one, and patients held hostage until they can pay the bills," Almario said in his explanatory note in the bill.
Almario said it would definitely be unfair on the part of the patients to have them held in detention until such time that they can fully pay their obligations.
Party-list Rep. Crispin Beltran expressed his support to the measures and called on the House leadership to act swiftly on them.
"Administrations and staff of hospitals who turn away indigent patients and refuse to give them medical treatment without first giving a substantial downpayment or guarantee should be made criminally liable, and even held responsible for any deaths or worsened condition of patients," Beltran said.
"Any staff or doctor or health professional who turns away or refuses to admit an indigent patient during an emergency situation should be held criminally liable and suspend his or her license to practice," he added