Gordon assists OFW’s niece on hospital arrest due to unpaid bills

Gordon assists OFW’s niece on hospital arrest due to unpaid bills

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senator Richard J. Gordon has extended immediate assistance
to London-based Filipino caregiver’s pregnant niece who has been held
in a private hospital in Arayat, Pampanga for failing to settle her
bills after contracting COVID-19.

Gordon, who also chairs the Philippine Red Cross, the country’s
premier humanitarian organization, assured Filipino caregiver Romeo
Mendoza that he has already asked the Department of Health (DOH) in
Region III to assist Mendoza’s niece.

“The undersigned is thankful to have quickly established
correspondence therewith since it is apparent that your Honorable
Office is fully committed to genuine public service, particularly for
those who are in most need of help from our country’s health care
system — people like Mrs. Angel Sunga,” he said in his letter.

Gordon, during his pre-taped interview with “Juan EU Konek” last Oct.
15, was responding to Mendoza’s appeal on behalf of her niece who was
placed in “hospital arrest” due to her failure to pay a balance of
P650,000 from her medical bills.

Sunga, who had been an expectant mother, tested positive for COVID-19
before giving birth and was turned away from a public hospital due to
its full bed capacity.

She was forced to be confined at the Holy Trinity Hospital in Arayat,
Pampanga, where she successfully gave birth.

Due to her financial difficulty during this pandemic, however, she was
only able to raise over P100,000 through the efforts of her caring
relatives, even seeking assistance from their UK-based relative.

As Sunga was unable to fork out the full amount of P750,000, the
mother was barred from being discharged by Holy Trinity, while the
baby could go home.

Gordon pointed out that any form of hospital arrest is prohibited
under Republic Act 9439 and such practice may have been going on
unchecked in some private hospitals because some may not be aware of
the 14-year-old law.

“Unang-una, walang hospital arrest. Bawal ‘yan. That is deprivation of
liberty without due process of law especially in this case that it is
a humanitarian problem,” he told Mendoza during a pre-taped interview,
which was aired last Oct. 17.

“Nangyayari yan. Takutan. It’s a game of intimidation, especially if
the person doesn’t know her rights as it is obvious in this case.
Kakayanin siya. Hindi kita palalabasin hangga’t di ka nagbabayad,” he
lamented.

Gordon said he hopes that this kind of problem does not happen again
as patients battling COVID-19 with limited financial capability have
the option of writing a promissory note to pay the bill in small
increments.

“Hindi puwedeng mangyari ito sa ordinaryong Pilipino na
pinagsasamantalahan ng ospital at mistulang kidnap-for-ransom. Mabuti
na lang at may nakatulong sa kanila. Salamat sa teknolohiya,” he
added.

Under the present law, it is illegal for any hospital or medical
clinic to detain patients who have fully or partially recovered for
failure to pay in part or full their hospital bills or medical
expenses.

A patient who is financially incapable to settle hospital bills or
medical expenses in part or in full are allowed to leave the hospital
or medical clinic and demand for a corresponding medical certificate
upon execution of a promissory note.

Such promissory note shall be secured by either a mortgage or by a
guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with
the patient for the unpaid obligation.

Those found violating the law may be fined not less than PhP20,000,
but not more than PhP50,000, or a jail term of not less than one
month, but not more than six months, or both such fine and
imprisonment, at the discretion of the proper court. (ai/mtvn)

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