Press Release
August 31, 2007

Pia appeals to hospital owners to call off 'holiday' protest

Senator Pia S. Cayetano has reiterated her appeal to leaders of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP) to call off their planned "hospital holiday" next month in defiance of Republic Act 9439, or the Hospital Detention Law.

"I call on hospital owners to continue their dialogue with the Department of Health and exhaust all means possible to resolve disagreements over the law's implementing rules and regulations (IRR), which have yet to be finalized," said Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography and one of the principal sponsors of RA 9439.

"For my part, I am open to a dialogue with them on possible amendments to include specific provisions to protect their financial viability," she added, even as she assured them that the newly signed law incorporates enough safeguards against abuses at the expense of private hospitals' business survival.

Cayetano warned that the holiday protest will only serve to aggravate the ongoing conflict and compromise the well-being of patients.

"Hospital owners are entitled to voice out their grievances, but suspending regular services for an entire day would be a disservice to the public, particularly to their patients whose lives and health they swore to uphold as medical professionals," she stressed.

"The most common misconception about the law is that it automatically allows patients to pack up and leave the hospital without paying their bills by just citing their poverty or financial incapacity. But this is not the case," she pointed out.

"The new law, " the senator explained, "only applies to charity patients who make up a small minority of the total number of private hospital patients. The law does not cover paying patients, or those in private rooms."

"Charity patients can only be discharged from the hospital upon executing a promissory note covering their unpaid bill. Even then, the promissory note must be secured by a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation."

Cayetano acknowledges that the problem of unpaid hospital bills is only a symptom of a much bigger crisis in the health sector which could be dealt with through comprehensive reforms, including a bigger health budget, approval of the bill lowering drug prices, and pursuing universal Philhealth coverage.

Last week, the lady senator called for an accounting of the share of the DOH and Philhealth from government collections under the higher Sin Tax and Expanded Value Added Tax laws, saying that not a single cent has been remitted by the finance department for these agencies in defiance of the social earmarking provisions of said laws.

She has also committed to prioritize the Cheaper Medicines Bill on the health committee's agenda, and push for a bigger slice for public hospitals in the proposed 2008 National Budget. #

News Latest News Feed