Dear PAO,

My husband is being treated in a private hospital for about a week now. We have unsettled bills amounting to more than a million pesos. The hospital insists that we should pay at least half of it for them to continue with their services. I really don't have the means to settle the same as of the moment. Do I have a legal basis to compel the hospital to provide treatment for my husband?

Nenita

Dear Nenita,

Please be informed of Section 1 of Batas Pambansa (BP) 702, as amended by Republic Act (RA) 10932 or "An Act Strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law by Increasing the Penalties for the Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Administer Appropriate Initial Medical Treatment and Support in Emergency or Serious Cases," which states that:

"Section 1. In emergency or serious cases, it shall be 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 administering basic emergency care to any patient, 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, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child, or noninstitutional delivery. x x x"

As provided under Section 1 of the aforementioned law, there are two scenarios wherein hospitals may not refuse treatment. First, it would be unlawful for the hospital to demand an advance payment as a prerequisite for providing initial treatment in emergency or serious cases. The hospital may not refuse to admit a prospective patient in emergency cases for the reason that such patient has not made any advance payment or deposit for his treatment. Second, it would be unlawful if the patient had already been admitted to the hospital for continuous treatment and the hospital refused to provide treatment in an emergency or serious situation as dictated by good practice of medicine to prevent death or permanent disability. When the patient has already been admitted to the hospital, the hospital may not discontinue treatment if it would result in death or permanent disability.

Whether your husband is for initial treatment or has been previously admitted to the hospital, if you can show that his condition falls under emergency or serious cases, then the hospital cannot refuse to provide treatment as doing so may lead to death or permanent disability which Section 1 of BP 702, as amended by RA 10932 seeks to prevent.

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For your reference, Section 2 of the same law describes emergency and serious cases. Emergency is defined as a condition or state of a patient wherein based on the objective findings of a prudent medical officer on duty for the day there is immediate danger and where delay in initial support and treatment may cause loss of life or cause permanent disability to the patient, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child, or would result in a non-institutional delivery. On the other hand, a serious case refers to a condition of a patient characterized by gravity or danger wherein based on the objective findings of a prudent medical officer on duty for the day when left unattended to, may cause loss of life or cause permanent disability to the patient, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child.

We hope that we were able to answer your queries. This advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

Editor's note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney's Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to [email protected]