Sunday, March 1, 2009

They tried to get inside the ER;They said no, no, no. (On the law prohibiting hospitals and clinics from refusing to administer emergency medical treatment)

By Siesta-friendly

In case you’re not familiar with this law (and we’re betting still not a lot of people are), we’ve decided to tackle it now as (notwithstanding the more than 10 years since the law was passed) we still come across news reports about hospitals violating the law by refusing emergency medical treatment to patients until the latter first make an advanced payment or deposit.

The law is short, simple and clear. So, we’ll let it speak for itself.

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:

a) 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

b) to refuse to administer medical treatment and support as dictated by good practice of medicine to prevent death or permanent disability.[1]

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.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

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.

Additional requirements[5]

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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

Hospitals may be run for profit but the nature of their business at times require them to give priority to their customers ahead of monetary gain. It’s about time they accept it and that people are fully aware of it.

[1] Sec.1, Republic Act No. 8344 (“An Act Penalizing The Refusal Of Hospitals And Medical Clinics To Administer Appropriate Initial Medical Treatment And Support In Emergency Or Serious Cases, Amending For The Purpose Batas Pambansa Bilang 702, Otherwise Known As "An Act Prohibiting The Demand Of Deposits Or Advance Payments For The Confinement Or Treatment Of Patients In Hospitals And Medical Clinics In Certain Cases"), August 25, 1997.

[2] Supra.

[3] Sec. 3, Ibid.

[4] Sec. 3, Implementing Rules And Regulations Of Republic Act No. 8344, February 18, 1998.

[5] Sec. 6, IRR.

[6] Sec. 4, RA 8344.

[7] Supra

[8] Sec. 6, IRR.


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