Ian Alfredo Magno
ONE of the abhorred hospital practices, in the not-so-distant past, was the strict requirement of substantial cash deposit before extending appropriate care to the patient. Hence, stories of patients dying without having been provided the slightest medical attention in the emergency rooms of hospitals, just because they could not give any deposit, was not uncommon in previous times.
As of August this year, President Digong signed into law Republic Act no. 10932 otherwise known as the Anti-Hospital Deposit Act. It further strengthened the previous law, Republic Act no. 8344 by providing stiffer penalties for hospitals and clinics which refuse to administer initial medical treatment in emergency cases for the sole reason that the patient could not afford to make a cash deposit.
Apparently, the previous law was not much of a deterrent, which imposed a meager penalty of imprisonment of six months to two years and/or a fine of P20,000 to P100,000 only. RA 10932 on the other hand, imposes a penalty of imprisonment for the same length of time and/or an increased fine ranging from P100,000 to P300,000. In addition, if the violation is pursuant to an established policy of the hospital or clinic or upon the instruction of its management, the director or officer responsible for the formulation of such policy shall, upon conviction by final judgment, suffer the penalty of imprisonment of four to six years and/or a fine ranging from P500,000 to P1,000,000 – without prejudice to the damages which may be awarded to the patient-complainant.
It must be noted that both RA 8344 and RA 10932 cover only emergency cases within its scope of application.
On Dec. 8, 2017, the major hospitals of Cagayan de Oro signed a momentous and historic agreement with Philhealth Regional Office 10, represented by regional vice president and concurrent area vice president for Mindanao Datu Masiding M. Alonto Jr., with Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar “Oca” S. Moreno as guest of honor and signatory witness. The participating hospitals are Cagayan de Oro Polymedic Plaza represented by Dr. Ruben Go; Madonna and Child Hospital represented by Dr. Miguel Kho; Capitol University Medical Center represented by Dr. Jesus Jardin; Cagayan de Oro Medical Center represented by Dexter Garcia; Sabal Hospital represented by Dr. Michael Sabal; and Maria Reyna-Xavier University Hospital represented by Sr. Mercy Corazon Bangot.
The signatory-institutions went beyond the mandate of the law, but evidently in line with the dictates of good conscience and ethical considerations in the field of health care. This is going the extra the mile, as you might say. Thanks to the conscious and persistent initiative – against all odds – of RVP Alonto who steadily reached out to the major players in Cagayan de Oro City to sit down and agree to such an arrangement.
The signed Memorandum of Agreement called for a deposit-free hospitalization in Cagayan de Oro, covering not only emergency cases but including non-emergency cases as well.
In his speech, RVP Alonto expressed the raison d’etre of the agreement, viz:
“The agreement seeks to strengthen RA 10932 or the No Hospital Deposit Law that prohibits hospitals from requiring any form of advance payment for patients needing basic emergency care. Under this agreement, the accredited provider shall not impose a deposit requirement for eligible PhilHealth members and their dependents that come to the facility for confinement or admission. This is true, regardless the patient needs emergency medical care or not. We believe that membership to PhilHealth is sufficient guarantee. And this is the fundamental logic of this agreement. And we are truly thankful to our partner providers who are with us today, for understanding and appreciating such logic.
“Finally, let me just reiterate that beyond the mandate of the law and the figures earlier mentioned, this agreement is proof of our friendship forged through the years. And that this document we are about to sign shall outlive us and benefit our children and their children as well.”
For his part, Mayor Moreno articulated:
“History is now being made, this is a watershed moment and years from now, this will be talked about and will be a source of pride for everyone here participating to have been a part of this.”
This is indeed a historic first in the entire Philippine archipelago, and will shortly be replicated by the neighboring regions in Mindanao; which, hopefully, the rest of the country would follow suit, soon.
(Ian Alfredo T. Magno is a lawyer and a deputy legal officer at Philhealth in Cagayan de Oro. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)