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A provincial legislator is urging for changes to the standard operating procedures used by health care facilities in the province, specifically COVID-19 protocols for incoming patients seeking immediate treatment or those brought for confinement.

Board Member Rafael V. Ortega, Jr. sought clarification on hospital procedures during Tuesday’s regular session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, saying he had received reports of mishandling and inefficient services to patients while at the emergency room.

With this in mind, Ortega suggested that hospitals review their emergency health protocols in order to effectively assist incoming patients.

“I learned from reliable sources, that in several occasions, while waiting for the release of RT-PCR results, their patients have already sustained or suffered several health conditions while waiting at the emergency room because no other palliative measures or other medical interventions were administered to their patients which resulted to unwanted consequences,” Ortega said.

“Mayroon tayong kaibigan, noong nakaraang araw lamang, siya ay coach ng Puerto Princesa swimming team. Hirap na hirap na siya at nagrereklamo na dahil masakit na ang kanyang dibdib pero inuna pa rin ang antigen test at nang ipasok siya sa ER, sad to say, siya ay namayapa na,” he added.

Ortega also made clear that, while he adheres to emergency procedures in hospitals, there are times when patients who are waiting for antigen test results, which takes time, are left unattended to.

“With all due respect, I believe that all hospitals operating in Palawan are observing to the fullest, their respective emergency procedures in admitting patients, especially during this time of pandemic. However, in several occasions, because of these procedures, emergency palliative medical intervention needed by patients are seemingly taken for granted,” he said.

“Most of the time, this result to unwanted consequences because there is no outright or palliative medical attention given or administered to the patient,” he added.

He further stated that hospitals are expected to administer appropriate medical intervention and patients should also get assurance for their efficient services.

“We bring our loved ones to hospitals because we believe that their medical problems will be aptly assessed and administered by appropriate medical intervention, and once they are inside the premises of the hospital, we are assured and secured that they are safe in the hands of medical personnel of a hospital,” he said.

“However, I see something very sensitive and delicate in handling patients for admission by which there is a compelling need to possibly revisit the emergency health protocols being observed by hospitals, giving high regard to the interest of patients especially if the condition of the patient is life threatening,” he said.

Furthermore, the 3rd District’s lone board member is seeking clarification on the compliance of hospitals in Palawan to Republic Act 9439, or the act prohibiting the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of nonpayment of hospital bills or medical expenses.

According to Ortega, patients are still prevented from leaving hospitals and are unable to check out due to the absence of a payment guarantee.

“The provisions of the law are being defeated [because] kung walang collateral, hindi pa rin makalabas [ang pasyente], therefore, mayroon pa ring detention na nangyayari,” he said.

Board member Winston Arzaga added that the issue needs to be resolved once and for all because it has been an ongoing concern in the province.

He as well stated that the Provincial Board has approved a legislative measure and has asked the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to look into the situation and file appropriate charges.

“The matter raised by Board Member Ortega is an old problem, which really has not been solved. First, it is very true that you cannot get out of a hospital, unless you are fully paid. And if you have not paid your dues, you have to leave a collateral for the remaining balance,” Arzaga said.

Arzaga also supported the move to revisit any law pertaining to patient releases, given the series of reports received by members of the Provincial Board.

He also suggested that the memorandum of agreement [MOA] among the provincial government and ACE Hospital, Cooperative Hospital, and Adventist Hospital Palawan be expedited so that patients can receive financial assistance.

“All we need now is to approve [the MOA] so that we can start giving support to our many patients coming over to the provincial board seeking this letter of guarantee,” he said.

“I think it’s about time to revisit if there is a law pertaining to hospital release of patients, and that law must be complied,” he added.

He agreed with Ortega’s suggestion to review hospitals’ COVID-19 patient admission protocols.

“It is correct that while you are waiting for the result of antigen test, you are hanging on the balance whether you’ll be alive or dead,” he said.

Board Member Marivic Roxas also suggested that financial assistance be directed to the Malasakit Center, eliminating the need for referrals to private hospitals.

She also asserted that services in provincial government-established hospitals should be improved in order to serve more indigent patients.

“Palakasin natin ang ating hospitals nang sa ganon, ang mga pasyente natin ay hindi na pupunta sa mga private hospitals at hindi na rin yung ating medical assistance napupunta doon. Mayroon tayong Malasakit Centers na doon iimbak ang lahat ng assistance ng sa ganon, hindi na sila magkakaroon ng referrals sa private hospitals,” Roxas said. (with reports from Gerald Ticke)

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.