(Apr. 24, 2020) On April 16, 2020, the Philippine government announced that it is investigating allegations that a number of hospitals have denied emergency treatment to patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In one case, a senior patient who had difficulty breathing reportedly was refused admission by as many as six hospitals that claimed they did not have vacant beds in their intensive care units. He later died at home. Another patient was also turned away by nine hospitals without getting any emergency treatment. The Philippine president ordered the Department of Justice to investigate the incidents, and the justice secretary has indicated that the National Bureau of Investigation is looking into the matter.
The chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography has condemned the incidents and stated that, under the Philippine Anti-Hospital Deposit Law (Republic Act 10932), it is illegal for hospitals or medical clinics to unduly refuse to provide medical treatment to patients who need urgent care. If a hospital does not have enough beds, patients may be transferred to other health care facilities able to provide treatment. However, section 1 of the Act provides 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.”
Those who are found to be in violation of the law may be punished with imprisonment of up to six years and a fine. The hospital involved may also have its license to operate revoked after three repeated violations are committed pursuant to management’s instructions. If an individual suffers death, serious impairment of his or her health, or permanent disability as a result of denial of hospital admission, a presumption of liability arises against the hospital and the officials, medics, or employees involved.