'Only for Pampangueños?' Bishop questions Angeles City closure of hospital that accepted suspected COVID-19 cases outside Pampanga

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 30 2020 03:07 PM | Updated as of Mar 31 2020 12:17 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - Caloocan bishop Pablo Virgilio David has questioned the move of the mayor of Angeles City in Pampanga for shutting down a private hospital after it accepted 4 suspected COVID-19 patients from Quezon City.

The bishop, who also hails from Pampanga, described the mayor's policy as "unchristian" and urged him to reconsider his decision.

"Only for Pampanguenos?" David asked in a now deleted Facebook post,

"Does that mean the honorable mayor is suggesting that no COVID-19 positive patients from Pampanga can be admitted in any of the hospitals in Manila if the Manila LGUs so object? Is there a provision in the Local Government Code that gives the LGUs such an authority?" he said.

"Mayor, I do not know what your religion is. But I know that such a policy is unchristian, plain and simple. Please reconsider."

The Philippine Rehabilitation Institute (PRI) Medical Center in the city on Sunday said it cannot reject suspected COVID-19 patients from other areas after the mayor ordered its closure for supposedly accepting a virus-infected patient without the city government's knowledge.

PRI, in a statement, said 4 patients from Quezon City arrived at its emergency room on Thursday afternoon via a private vehicle.

"While we understand the good mayor’s plight and desire to only accept patients residing within Pampanga, we cannot do so as it goes against the directive of the [Department of Health] and Philhealth," it said.

"More importantly, it is also against the Hippocratic Oath which is the Universal Code of Ethics of physicians in treating the sick, regardless of race, religion and ethnicity."

The patients were a 66-year-old cardiologist who has difficulty breathing and fever for 1 week, his wife who complained of shortness of breath and fever for 3 days, their nephew and driver who both had fever and cough for the past four days.

Upon the patients' arrival, the hospital said it informed the regional epidemiology surveillance unit which will facilitate the swab for the 4 patients. 

"The local government unit knew that the 4 patients were from Quezon City because it is part of their protocol to know the location for contact tracing," it said.

"They did not stop PRI Medical Center from admitting these 4 patients. Rejecting them would be tantamount to violating the Hippocratic Oath and the DOH Circular No. 2020-0070."

The city's public information office, however, said the local government was not informed about the patients.

Mayor Carmelo Lazatin Jr. had also ordered for the immediate revocation of the hospital's business permit, it added.

"PRI has put the entire Angeles City in danger. Pinalusutan nila tayo ng positive patient na hindi taga rito,” Lazatin said in a statement Saturday.

“The city government will also prepare legal actions against PRI for putting the entire Angeles City in danger. Under my term, hindi na mabubuksan 'yang hospital na 'yan."

On Monday however, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) has ordered the immediate reopening of PRI.

"Access to health care is for everyone regardless of regardless of demography and identity. Local chief executives (LCEs) should not discriminate against non-residents in times of crisis in the same way that doctors have an oath to save lives," the DILG said in its official Facebook post.