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Hontiveros renews push for stiffer penalties vs hospital detention amid 'palit-ulo scam'

PHILIPPINES, April 4 - Press Release
April 4, 2024

Hontiveros renews push for stiffer penalties vs hospital detention amid 'palit-ulo scam'

Senate Bill No. 140: https://legacy.senate.gov.ph/lis/bill_res.aspx?congress=19&q=SBN-140

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday reiterated the urgent need to pass a bill she filed back in 2022 that seeks to increase the punishment for hospital detention in light of complaints from family members of deceased patients who were allegedly barred from leaving a Valenzuela City hospital due to their inability to immediately settle their medical expenses.

"Doble-dobleng pasakit ito sa mga pamilya ng mga pasyente. Nawalan na nga ng mahal sa buhay, lubog pa sa gastusin, tapos hindi pa papayagang makauwi mula sa ospital? Sobrang abuso naman 'yang 'palit-ulo scam' na 'yan!" Hontiveros said.

She added, "If true, these hospitals are brazenly committing crimes in broad daylight. Klaro sa batas na bawal ang hospital detention at pwedeng makulong at pagmultahin ang sinumang lumabag dito. The Department of Health must take immediate action on this and make sure incidents like these do not happen again."

Recognizing the need to impose stiffer penalties for hospital detention, Hontiveros previously filed Senate Bill No. 140 to increase the jail time for officers or employees of health facilities who block the release of patients to six months and one day to up to two years and four months, while the fine will be increased to P100,000 to P300,000.

Under the current anti-hospital detention law, imprisonment is set at one month to six months, while the fine is set at P20,000 to P50,000. The law only applies to indigent or ward patients and not to those who are admitted in private rooms.

The bill also imposes an additional penalty of four to six years of imprisonment and/or a fine of P500,000 to P1 million for directors or officers who make it a policy at their health facilities or instruct employees to hold patients.

Three repeated violations is all it takes for the Department of Health to revoke a health facility's license to operate under the bill.

"The anti-hospital detention law was passed way back in 2007. Talagang napapanahon nang i-update ito at lagyan ng mas matalas na pangil para matuldukan na ang 'di makataong pag-detain sa mga pasyente pati na rin sa mga kapamilya nila," Hontiveros said.

In addition to stiffer penalties, Hontiveros' bill also seeks to allow guarantee letters from the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, or the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. to be used by patients who are members of these institutions instead of a mortgage or guarantee by a co-maker.

The bill also states that indigent patients can just present a guarantee letter from the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

The bill also creates a P100 million Anti-Hospital Detention Assistance Fund which will be used to cover unpaid promisory notes issued by poor and indigent persons. Funds for this will be charged against current appropriations and afterwards will be sourced from the Medical Assistance for Indigent Patients.

"Pagaanin naman natin ang buhay ng ating mga kababayan. Huwag na nating hayaan na madagdagan pa ang kanilang mga pasanin. Kaya sana maipasa na sa lalong madaling panahon itong pagpapalakas sa anti-hospital detention law," Hontiveros said.