You might have read in the news lately about Aira Arellano who welcomed her child in a taxi. According to the report of Jay Sabale in GMA News TV's Balitanghali, she was forced to give birth in the transport vehicle because she was refused admittance by two (yes, two!) hospitals.
The report said Aira, who was with her mother-in-law, was first refused by a hospital in Tala, Caloocan. Hospital officials reasoned they didn't have the proper facilities to handle a premature childbirth.
On the way to another hospital, Aira gave birth to Precious aboard the taxi cab that was now plying Quirino Highway. Fortunately, there was a rescue team who brought Aira and her new baby to a private hospital in Fairview, Quezon City. After the attending staff cut the umbilical cord, they supposedly turned Aira and her baby away because the family could not afford the fees.
At that point, the plight of the mag-ina was reported by Super Radyo DZBB reporter Olan Bola. A motorist who heard it on the radio dropped by the hospital and offered monetary help. The rescue team was then able to transfer Aira and Precious to East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) where they continue to be monitored.
The incident prompted Senator Risa Hontiveros to look into Aira's case. "She was a victim of a private hospital that refused to admit her because she couldn't afford the deposit demanded of her, and a public hospital that lacked facilities," she told GMA News. "We cannot tolerate hospitals denying mothers and their children health services in their time of urgent need. Where will our people go if they can't get medical help from either public or private hospitals?"
The Philippines has an Anti-Hospital Deposit Law, or Republic Act No. 8344 ("An Act Penalizing The Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Appropriate Initial Medical Treatment and Support in Emergency or Serious Cases"), which was enacted back August 1997. A woman about to give birth certainly classifies as emergency and a serious case, and should not have been asked to provide any kind of advanced payment in order to be given the care that she needed.
According to the law, if a health facility lacks the necessary equipment to attend to a patient's condition, the attending physician may transfer the patient to a better equipped hospital. The transfer will require the patient or his next of kin and the receiving hospital or clinic to agree to the transfer. In case the patient is unconscious or there is no next of kin present, the attending physician can facilitate the transfer but only after the necessary emergency treatment and support had been administered. He also needs to make sure the transfer will not put the patient at more risk than continued confinement.
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Just last year, Sen. Hontiveros, who's also the chair of the Senate Commitee on Health, proposed a new bill, The Amendments to the Anti-Hospital Deposit Act, which would impose heavier penalties on hospitals that continue to demand deposit or other form of advance payment for hospital admission or emergency treatment. Currently, violators of the RA 8344 will be fined P20,000 to P100,000 or will be imprisoned for six months to two years and four months. If the violation is committed with orders from management, the director or officer of the health facility responsible for the directive shall be imprisoned for four to six years or fined P100,000 to P500,000.
If Hontiveros' Senate Bill No. 216 passes, violators of the Anti-Hospital Deposit law will get a four- to six-year imprisonment. The maximum penalty will also be raised to P1,000,000. Plus, after three repeated offenses, the health facility's license to operate shall be revoked by the Department of Health (DOH). The bill is currently pending approval in the Senate.
"No life should be unnecessarily put at risk, no person should be denied adequate and quality medical care just because they are poor and our government-run hospitals cannot adequately respond to their emergency medical needs. We have heard this unfortunate story so many times already. It's time we put an end to it," Hontiveros said.
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