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In spite of the recent enactment of RA 9439 or the Hospital Detention Law, patients are still being detained in the Bukidnon Provincial Hospital in Maramag for failure to settle their Hospital bills.

Resembling an unsanitized evacuation area, 18 patients lay in makeshift carton mats in the hospital’s abandoned out-patient department. A newly born baby who was previously diagnosed with Pneumonia, was again afflicted by the said disease due to the cramped and unsanitary conditions of the detention room. Some patients have been languishing in the dilapidated ward for almost three months amidst their willingness to sign promisory notes.

“With their present state of vulnerability, every day of the patients’ detention exposes them to infections and other hospital acquired diseases. The Health Workers of Bukidnon Provincial Hospital should know better than detain patients for an extended period in spite of any remaining hospital fees,” Edeliza Hernandez, Executive Director of Medical Action Group, Inc. (MAG) said.

“The Bukidnon Provincial Hospital has also clearly violated the Hospital Detention Law which prohibits Hospitals from detaining patients for failure to settle hospital fees,” Hernandez added.

Republic Act No. 9439 or the Hospital Detention Law states that it shall be unlawful for any hospital or medical clinic to detain fully or partially recovered patients for reasons of non-payment of hospital expenses. Patients with unsettled hospital fees have the right to demand for the issuance of a medical certificate and other pertinent papers for the release of the patient upon the execution of a promisory note. The said promisory note should be secured by mortgage or by a guarantee from a co-maker which will be held equally liable for the unpaid hospital bills.

In defense of the Hospital’s violation of RA 9439, Dr Jeaneth Mercadera, Hospital Administrator of Bukdinon Provincial Hospital of Maramag mentioned the Provincial Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri’s Memorandum Order No. 164 and No. 178 series of 2006 which prohibits any Hospital employee from granting discounts and issuing promisory notes for patients’ hospital bills. According to Dr. Mercadera, failure to implement the Memorandum orders will result to the issuance of sanctions and other disciplinary measures.

“It is the state’s responsibility to respect, protect and fulfill the Right to Health of its constitutents. The Local Government Unit of Bukidnon not only failed in this aspect, they even exacerbated the situation by implementing policies that are anti-poor and anti-people.” Hernandez concluded.

Under R.A. No. 9439, any officer or employee who violates the provisions of the Hospital Detention Law will be punished by a fine of not less than P20, 000.00 but nor more than P50,000.00 or imprisonment of a maximum of six months. Both Fine and imprisonment can also be applied upon the court’s discretion.