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Private hospitals protest new law, threaten ‘strike’

MANILA, Philippines -- Doctors of private hospitals are threatening a nationwide hospital holiday, wherein only emergency cases will be treated, to protest the passage of a measure preventing medical institutions from detaining patients with unpaid bills.

The Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines (PHAP), which includes as its members three big Metro Manila hospitals, will decide Thursday whether it will push through with the first day of the hospital holiday scheduled Friday.

The decision will depend on the results of a dialogue with Department of Health officials over PHAP concerns about Republic Act No. 9439 (or the Hospital Detention Law) principally sponsored by Senators Manuel Villar, Sergio Osmeña III and Pia Cayetano.

If the dialogue proves unproductive, the PHAP will proceed with its plans, with holidays to be held two or three times a month until December, according to its spokesperson Dr. Rustico Jimenez.

Once the holiday is in effect, only urgent cases will be attended to, and those seeking simple consultations will be turned away, Jimenez said.

He said the PHAP had about 400 to 500 members nationwide, including St. Luke’s Medical Center, UST Hospital and Medical City.

Sought for comment, Health Undersecretary Alex Padilla appealed to the PHAP not to push through with its planned holiday, saying the doctors’ fears would not materialize just yet.

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