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Private hospital accused of illegal detention

MANILA, Philippines —  A private hospital in Valenzuela City is in hot water for allegedly detaining relatives of patients who are not able to settle their bills.

Mayor Weslie Gatchalian said yesterday he has ordered an investigation into the activities of Ace Medical Center for its alleged involvement in a modus operandi called “palit ulo.”

“This is well orchestrated. There have been many victims and (the hospital) knows the process,” Gatchalian said in a news briefing.

Richel Mae Alvaro and Lovery Magtangob filed charges of serious illegal detention and slight illegal detention against employees of the hospital before the office of the city prosecutor.

Alvaro’s husband died in the hospital on Feb. 14 of complications brought by an unspecified illness. His hospital bill reached P518,519.87.

Alvaro, 26, said she was barred from leaving the hospital premises and was not even allowed to buy food outside.

She said her movements in the hospital’s intensive care unit waiting area, where she was forced to stay for three days, were monitored by security guards.

It was only on Feb. 17 that she was able to go home to take care of her husband’s wake after she escaped through the back gate of the medical facility.

Magtangob, 28, said she and her brother brought her sister-in-law to the same hospital last Feb. 22. The patient died of thyroid storm complications.

Magtangob said she returned to the hospital on Feb. 26 to secure a death certificate but was instead issued a probationary death certificate and prevented from leaving unless she settled her sister-in-law’s bill, which totaled P777,378.

She was released only after her brother arrived and gave an initial payment of P50,000.

Magtangob said she and her brother entered into an agreement to pay the hospital P100,000 each day until the bill was settled.

In both cases, Gatchalian said the employees prevented the victims from leaving the hospital unless they are replaced by their relatives.

The city government assisted the victims through its free legal assistance for poor families. Criminal cases were filed against the hospital on March 5 and April 1.

Gatchalian said the hospital has submitted its counter-affidavit denying