By REY G. PANALIGAN
The Supreme Court (SC) required yesterday the Department of Health (DoH) to answer a petition that challenged the constitutionality of the law which imposes a higher penalty for hospitals and medical clinics that refuse to admit patients who fail to pay deposits or advance payments.
During its full court session, the SC acted on the petition filed by the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines, Inc. (PHAPI).
“Acting on the petition for certiorari and prohibition with an application for temporary restraining order dated October 13, 2017, the SC required respondents to COMMENT on both the petition and the application for a temporary restraining order within a non-extendible period of ten (10) days from receipt of the order,” SC Spokesman Theodore O. Te said quoting from the resolution.
Sought to be declared unconstitutional is Republic Act No. 10932, also known as An Act Strengthening the Anti-Hospital Deposit Law by Increasing the Penalties for the Refusal of Hospitals and Medical Clinics to Administer Appropriate Initial Treatment and Support in Emergency or Serious Cases.
RA 10932 was signed into law by President Rodrigo Duterte last August.
Also named as respondent, aside from the DoH, is the Office of the Executive Secretary.
In its petition, PHAPI told the SC that the fines under the law, which may reach up to P1 million, are not commensurate to the act or omission that is being penalized.
The fines and penalties are “unjust, excessive and oppressive, and thus amount to denial of due process,” it said.
It pointed out that the law’s presumption of liability clause “is repugnant to the constitutional presumption of innocence,” and “essentially reverses the presumption of innocence.”
The group assailed Section 5 (presumption of liability) of the law which holds accountable the hospital, clinic, and attending medical practitioner or staff liable in the event of death, permanent disability, serious impairment, or in the case of a pregnant woman, permanent injury or loss of her unborn child, stemming from denial of admission to a health facility.
It also slammed Section 7 of the law which directs PhilHealth to reimburse the cost of basic emergency care given to “poor and indigent patients,” and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to provide medical assistance to the same, for being violative of the equal protection clause; and Section 8, which grants tax deductions to hospitals and medical clinics that incur other expenses surrounding emergency care to “poor and indigent patients” which are not reimbursed by PhilHealth.