Senator Dick Gordon has extended immediate assistance to a London-based Filipino caregiver’s pregnant niece who has been held in a private hospital in Arayat, Pampanga for failing to settle her bills after contracting COVID-19.

Gordon, who also chairs the Philippine Red Cross, the country’s premier humanitarian organization, assured Filipino caregiver Romeo Mendoza that he has already asked the Department of Health (DOH) in Region III to assist Mendoza’s niece.

“The undersigned is thankful to have quickly established correspondence therewith since it is apparent that your Honorable Office is fully committed to genuine public service, particularly for those who are in most need for help from our country’s health care system – people like Mrs. Angel Sunga,” the veteran legislator said in his letter.

The seasoned lawmaker, during his pre-taped interview with “Juan EU Konek” recently, was responding to Mendoza’s appeal on behalf of her niece who was placed in “hospital arrest” due to her failure to pay a balance of P650,000 from her medical bills.

Sunga tested positive for COVID-19 before giving birth and was turned away from a public hospital due to its full bed capacity. She was forced to be confined at the Holy Trinity Hospital in Arayat, Pampanga, where she gave birth.

Due to her financial difficulty during this pandemic, however, Sunga was only able to raise over P100,000 through the efforts of her caring relatives, even seeking assistance from their UK-based relatives.

As Sunga was unable to fork out the full amount of P750,000, the mother was barred from being discharged by Holy Trinity, while the baby could go home.

The senator pointed out that any form of hospital arrest is prohibited under Republic Act 9439 and such practice may have been going on unchecked in some private hospitals because some may not be aware of the 14-year-old law.

“Walang hospital arrest. Bawal ‘yan. That is deprivation of liberty.”

“Unang-una, walang hospital arrest. Bawal ‘yan. That is deprivation of liberty without due process of law, especially in this case that it is a humanitarian problem,” he told Mendoza during a pre-taped interview.

“Nangyayari ‘yan. Takutan. It’s a game of intimidation, especially if the person doesn’t know her rights as it is obvious in this case. Kakayanin siya. Hindi kita palalabasin hangga’t di ka nagbabayad,” Gordon lamented.

He said he hopes that this kind of problem does not happen again as patients battling COVID-19 with limited financial capability have the option of writing a promissory note to pay the bill in small increments.

“Hindi pwedeng mangyari ito sa ordinaryong Pilipino na pinagsasamantalahan ng ospital at mistulang kidnap-for-ransom.”

“Hindi pwedeng mangyari ito sa ordinaryong Pilipino na pinagsasamantalahan ng ospital at mistulang kidnap-for-ransom. Mabuti na lang at may nakatulong sa kanila. Salamat sa teknolohiya,” Gordon added.

Under the present law, it is illegal for any hospital or medical clinic to detain patients who have fully or partially recovered for failure to pay in part or full their hospital bills or medical expenses.

A patient who is financially incapable to settle hospital bills or medical expenses in part or in full is allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic and demand for corresponding medical certificate upon execution of a promissory note.

Such promissory note shall be secured by either a mortgage or by a guarantee of a co-maker, who will be jointly and severally liable with the patient for the unpaid obligation.

Those found violating the law may be fined of not less than P20,000, but not more than P50,000, or a jail term of not less than one month, but not more than six months, or both such fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the proper court.


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