At one point you may have been in the same unpaid hospital bills situation as this letter writer:

Dear Sir:

Almost in the same week that my mother died, my sister developed appendicitis. She was rushed to a private hospital in Quezon City, treated then sent to recover in the charity ward. The head physician prescribed medicines and a week after said we can take her home but only after bills are fully paid. He says only government hospitals might consider releasing patients on a case to case basis.

Much as I’d like to pay up front, I cannot at the moment as I’m still settling bills from the funeral. The longer she stays in the hospital, the larger the bills balloon. What can I do?


Can you execute a promissory note to undertake full payment on a deferred date to procure release?


Yes. RA 9439, also known as AN ACT PROHIBITING THE DETENTION OF PATIENTS IN HOSPITALS AND MEDICAL CLINICS ON GROUNDS OF NONPAYMENT OF HOSPITAL BILLS OR MEDICAL EXPENSES specifically bars both private and public hospitals from releasing patients upon the presentment of a promissory note or undertaking to pay at a future date. The promissory note must be backed by mortgage or a guarantee of a co-maker.

The pertinent provisions apply:

“SEC. 2. Patients who have fully or partially recovered and who already wish to leave the hospital or medical clinic but are financially incapable to settle, in part or in full, their hospitalization expenses, including professional fees and medicines, shall be allowed to leave the hospital or medical clinic, with a right to demand the issuance of the corresponding medical certificate and other pertinent papers required for the release of the patient from the hospital or medical clinic upon the execution of a promissory note covering the unpaid obligation. The 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. x x x Provided, however, that patients who stayed in private rooms shall not be covered by this Act.”

Take note that the law does not distinguish between a private nor public hospital and the patient may secure clearance from the institution with the proper promissory note.

You have cause of action to file a complaint against all hospital officers barring release.

The penalties for violation of this Act can be severe. Section 3 of R. A. No. 9439 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations levies a fine of not less than P20,000 but not more than P50,000, or imprisonment 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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