St. Luke’s, American patient avoid lengthy legal battle
MANILA, Philippines—A 71-year-old American and officials of St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Quezon City avoided what may have been a lengthy court battle after both agreed to settle their differences amicably on Thursday.
Earlier, Jerry Allan Hanson, an American missionary and war veteran, filed a petition in court for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus (a judicial order for the release of a person being kept in detention) as he claimed that SLMC officials have refused to discharge him from the hospital since December due to his unpaid medical bill.
But in a hearing on Thursday at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 84, SLMC legal counsel Dalmacio Magbuo told Judge Luisito Cortez that since November, the hospital has been in talks with Hanson and his live-in partner and authorized representative Arlene Icasiano on how they could pay off his balance of P800,000.
“St. Luke’s accepts promissory notes but for the execution of a promissory note, a mortgage or a guarantee from a comaker or any other form of security is needed. They are not willing to post a security,” Magbuo said as he added that this was a requirement set by all hospitals.
Icasiano, meanwhile, told the judge that she and Hanson had no property to their name. She said that while she had inherited a piece of land from her parents, she was hesitant about using it as security for the promissory note since she was not the sole owner of the property. She added that she and Hanson were only renting their home in Tanay, Rizal.
Later on, however, she relented and agreed to use her share of the land as security for the promissory note. This prompted Cortez to schedule the signing in court on Friday of a compromise agreement between the two parties.
Magbuo told the Inquirer that St. Luke’s was open to the signing of promissory notes but these should be backed up by a mortgage or guaranteed by a comaker.
“As early as November, the hospital has been speaking with them and making suggestions on how they can settle their bill. I think we were able to meet with them only three times because during the other instances, they did not reply to our invitation,” he said.
He stressed that Hanson was not being detained at the medical facility which was why hospital officials were surprised when he filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus.
“His case does not fall under Republic Act 9439 because he is staying in a private room. The law is specific on that,” Magbuo told the Inquirer.
Republic Act 9439 prohibits the detention of patients in hospitals and medical clinics on grounds of nonpayment of hospital bills or medical expenses although it does not apply to those staying in private rooms.
Hanson, a missionary of the United Gospel of the Living God who has been in the country for five years, has been at the hospital since Oct. 3 after he underwent surgery for laryngeal cancer.
Doctors reportedly cleared him for discharge on Dec. 20 but since he has yet to pay his hospital bill in full, he remains confined at SLMC.
Hanson said he had paid the hospital P704,000 although he has a balance of P800,000.
Icasiano sought the court’s intervention as she said Hanson needed to be temporarily discharged so that he could settle his bill through a health care refund and financial help from the US Veteran’s Office. According to her, Hanson must apply in person for his refund to be processed.