You can find many stories and reports on the Internet that hospitals and doctors ask for an advanced payment or deposit before helping a patient. There are also stories of patients dying on the sidewalk in front of a hospital because of this behavior. Here comes RA 8344 to help.
For westerners and others coming from more developed countries this scenario is unthinkable. Hospitals and especially doctors and nurses have taken the Hippocratic Oath to do whatever they can to help people in medical need.
For decades, and still today, many Philippine hospitals are private institutions; and act more as a business than a hospital. The more money they make the better. There is nothing wrong with making money, but the moment money comes before a patient, that is not good.
Let us all hope you will never need this information, but it is good to know that there is a clear law about this issue.
Not so many people are aware of the Republic Act 8344 (RA 8344), in which is stated that it is not allowed for hospitals and their staff or a physician to ask for advance payment or a deposit in life threatening or severe situations. Read the whole text of the RA 8344.
Only a few months ago a hospital in Mindanao get in trouble with this RA 8344. Read the story in the Gold Star Daily, a leading newspaper in Mindanao Hospital in hot water over ‘deposit policy’ from August 18, 2014.
So in short: All hospital staff in Emergency departments, physicians and nurses, but also finance staff should know about RA 8344 and its rules. (When you are a member of PhilHealth it is much easier. PhilHealth is a Health care insurer owned by the Philippine government and is funded to help people who do not have sufficient funds for better health care. But always carry the membership card with you, you never know… )
In other words:
No deposit required
In emergency or serious cases, it is unlawful for any proprietor, president, director, manager or any other officer, and/or medical practitioner or employee of a hospital or medical clinic:
- To request, solicit, demand or accept any deposit or any other form of advance payment as a prerequisite for confinement or medical treatment of a patient in such hospital or medical clinic, or to refuse to administer medical treatment and support as dictated by good practice of medicine to prevent death or permanent disability.
When patient transfer is allowed
- However, by reason of inadequacy of the medical capabilities of the hospital or medical clinic, the attending physician may transfer the patient to a facility where the appropriate care can be given, after the patient or his next of kin consents to said transfer and after the receiving hospital or medical clinic agrees to the transfer. And when such patient is unconscious, incapable of giving consent and/or unaccompanied, the physician can transfer the patient even without his consent, provided that such transfer shall be done only after necessary emergency treatment and support have been administered to stabilize the patient and after it has been established that such transfer entails less risks than the patient’s continued confinement.
- And no hospital or clinic, after being informed of the medical indications for such transfer, shall refuse to receive the patient nor demand from the patient or his next of kin any deposit or advance payment.
- After the hospital or medical clinic mentioned above shall have administered medical treatment and support, it may cause the transfer of the patient to an appropriate hospital consistent with the needs of the patient, preferably to a government hospital, especially in the case of poor or indigent.
The transferring and receiving hospital, shall be as much as practicable, be within a 10 kilometer radius of each other. The transfer shall always be properly documented.
- Hospitals may require a deposit or advanced payment when the patient is no longer under the state of emergency and he/she refuses to be transferred.
- A copy of the law and the implementing rules and regulations should be displayed prominently at hospital emergency rooms, hospital admission, counters and medical clinic premises.
- Hospital and clinic managers should instruct their personnel to provide prompt and immediate medical attention to emergency and serious cases without any prior requirements for payment or deposit.
- Hospital and clinic managers should establish billing and collection procedure for treatment or confinement of emergency and serious cases which shall not commence until the essential appropriate treatment of such cases has been completed.
- The official, medical practitioner or employee of the hospital or medical clinic shall be punished by imprisonment from 6 months and 1 day up to 2 years and 4 months, or a fine between P20,000.00 and P100,000.00 or both, at the court’s discretion.
- If the violation was committed pursuant to an established policy of the hospital or clinic or upon instruction of its management, the director or officer of such hospital or clinic responsible shall be punished by imprisonment of 4 to 6 years, or a fine between P100,000.00 and P500,000.00 or both, at the court’s discretion.
- At the instance of the Bureau of Licensing and Regulation, administrative proceedings may also be pursued against erring clinics or hospitals that could lead to either suspension or revocation of appropriate licenses.
Hospitals may be founded for profit but their core business at all times require them to give priority to the health and well being of their customers ahead of monetary gain. It is about time, they follow this law and that people should be fully aware of it.