PGH doctors cry foul over Ramon Tulfo 'cyberbullying, doctor shaming'

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 19 2018 10:21 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2018 12:33 AM

The Philippine General Hospital. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - A group of doctors accused radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist Ramon Tulfo of cyberbullying and doctor shaming over a video he uploaded on the internet. 

Tulfo posted a video on Facebook on Thursday of him confronting doctors at the Philippine General Hospital over a child he brought to the emergency room. 

The Physicians' Association of the Philippine General Hospital blasted Tulfo for his behavior at the PGH and for uploading the video he took of the incident.

"The PGH PA condemns the contemptible acts of Mr. Ramon Tulfo as his team videotaped the events at the ER triage while he was verbally abusing the staff members on duty as a minor he brought to the ER was being assessed," the group said in a statement released Saturday.

The group also blasted Tulfo for naming the triage officer and uploading the video without the consent of the people involved.

"He also uploaded the said video on social media and cited the Triage Officer’s name without his consent, nor did he try to anonymize the people in the video," PGH PA said.

"Cyberbullying and doctor shaming are not only punishable by Philippine law, these also demean the healthcare workers’ and patients’ rights to privacy. We stand firm with the PGH community in upholding the rights of our staff, students, and especially the patients whom we serve," the group added.

 

Tulfo, for his part, said they were taking a video of the process for "future legal reference." 

His team was also taking videos of the child and not the doctor.

"Initially, we planned to record the condition of the child for future legal reference at hindi yung doktor na titingin sana sa bata. But the doctor refused to look over the patient, driving me to get upset," Tulfo wrote on Facebook.

"Kung kayo ang nasa kalagayan ko, mga kaibigan, magagalit din kayo," added.

The staff members, on the other hand, were reminding Tulfo and his team that they could not take videos and photos in the area for privacy reasons.

According to the Department of Health, the privacy of patients "must be assured at all stages of his treatment. The patient has the right to be free from unwarranted public exposure."

A patient's health records can only be exposed to the public if an appropriate court asks for a physical or mental examination by a physician, when such records may affect public health and safety, or when the patient (or his/her guardian) waives the right to privacy in writing.

Meanwhile, the All UP Academic Employees Union-Manila called Tulfo's actions as "irresponsible."

"The actions of Mr. Tulfo are not only grossly irresponsible, but also patently endanger the lives of other patients under the care of the PGH ER staff," the union said in a statement.

"The union also unequivocally condemns attempts at doctor shaming instigated by Mr. Tulfo through various platforms on social media," they added.

 

The union is urging the PGH administration as well as the UP Manila leadership, to take action against Tulfo regarding the matter.

"The union enjoins the PGH and UP Manila administrations to also extend assistance to the patient and her family. As a minor, the patient has been subjected to undue duress brought about by Mr. Tulfo’s video and she and her family may require further help in the future," the union said.

Read the official statement from the Office of the Director of PGH on the Ramon Tulfo incident 

PHILIPPINE GENERAL HOSPITAL STATEMENT ON THE RAMON TULFO INCIDENT

This narrative is being issued to shed light on an unfortunate event that occurred at the PGH Emergency room last August 15, 2018. The belated issuance of this report is due to the painstaking effort to accurately gather and process information relevant to the incident to ensure that statements are factual and fair to all concerned.

First, we are glad to report that the 9-year old victim who was run over by a vehicle part of the convoy of Mr. Ramon Tulfo has been discharged after a day in the hospital. A comprehensive medical workup was performed, including a Cranial CT Scan, and upon release, the child was well and stable with only minor abrasions. 

At around 6:30 pm of August 15, Mr. Tulfo accompanied by his entourage, brought a patient to the ER of PGH seeking treatment for the child's injuries. As part of the hospital's standard operating procedure, they were immediately directed to the triage desk where patients are assessed according to the severity of injury or illness and provided the necessary medical intervention. This is done to ensure that those in danger of dying from illness or injury are attended to before anybody else. The triage officer of that night attended to the victim and while attempting to perform his tasks, he saw that several of the staff of Mr. Tulfo were taking video recordings of the victim and himself. The doctor immediately admonished them to stop what they were doing. Instead of compliance with this reasonable and lawful directive, the doctor was shouted at, cursed several times , and even given the “dirty finger” by Mr. Tulfo, not just once. It was obvious from the video that the mother was anxious and apprehensive, trying to cover the face of her child, who already traumatized by the accident, was being further subjected to the verbally violent scene. She pleaded with the company of Mr. Tulfo to stop the disruptions because the focus should be on the treatment of her child. It was also evident that the doctor , despite the insults and accusations against him never showed Mr. Tulfo disrespect but continued to act with the highest degree of self control and professionalism, placing the welfare of all the ER patients as his first priority instead of the defense of his person and reputation . Unfortunately, the doctor’s pleadings for the group to stop filming were futile. The invectives and insults shouted by Mr. Tulfo as heard on the audio does not need further interpretation. Despite the actions of Mr. Tulfo, the doctor was not intimidated nor allowed himself to be coerced but remained faithful in the performance his duties which he knows to be legally and morally right. 

To avoid losing his temper, the doctor opted to leave the triage area and call on his senior medical officer to intervene. The security and police officers of PGH arrived and Mr. Tulfo was asked to leave the premises. His staff however, remained at the hospital and asked for understanding and "pasensiya" for their "boss". They also requested that the incident remain private. They were assured that it was the hospital's policy to be professional at all times. In the meantime, the necessary treatment was given to the child. 

Thereafter, Dr. Gerardo Legaspi, Director of PGH, was requested to intervene to further facilitate the care of the patient if still needed and diffuse the tense situation. He personally spoke with Mr. Tulfo to clarify matters and to assure him that the child was being competently cared for. However, Mr. Tulfo claimed that the doctor was arrogant and threatened to expose him as well as file a case before the PRC (Professional Regulation Commission). The Director requested that PGH be given the chance to investigate the facts and details of the ER incident before any action be taken. Despite this, the next day, Mr. Tulfo sent a message that he was going to air the video on Facebook. Once again, Dr. Legaspi requested him to delay until the investigation was complete, but Mr. Tulfo refused. Several hours later, Mr. Tulfo informed Dr. Legaspi that the video had gone viral. 

This statement purposes to invalidate the claim of Mr. Tulfo that the victim was not accorded the medical care due her on August 15, 2018 when she was brought to the ER of PGH for treatment and that the doctor was remiss in the performance of his duties as an ER doctor. It is not our intention to condemn Mr. Tulfo as a person but his actions that have caused injury to the ER of PGH, its patients, not the least, the child who was the victim of the accident, as well as to its hardworking medical personnel. 

The doctors' strict implementation of the PGH policy prohibiting the video recording of the minor victim is in accordance with the right to privacy of the minor victim and the mother as provided under the Data Privacy Law. The videotaping was done without the prior written informed consent of the mother. Worse, the video recording was of no benefit to the victim whose primary need of the moment was medical assistance. According the Mr. Tulfo's staff, the video recording was for their own documentation.

The actions and abusive language employed by Mr. Ramon Tulfo compromised the performance of the ER services of the hospital and the efficiency of the medical personnel. The incident could have been an outright endangerment of the lives of the patients had there been those in a life or death situation. It was only by the providence of God that there was no such case at that precise moment.

As to the legal actions that may be taken by the triage doctor who was merely attempting to perform his duties as an ER doctor and did not deserve to have his reputation and character besmirched, we leave to his discretion. We would like to state however, that we empathize that he was deeply humiliated by the incident which occurred before the ER patients and before other PGH personnel, especially because he could not defend his honor right there and then for the sake of avoiding further disruptions in the ER. We stand by him whatever his choice may be.

The further legal implications of the act of uploading the video in social media, which we maintain is illegal, we leave to the lawyers. Anyone watching the video will clearly hear the curses directed at the doctor. Of equal concern is the accompanying post of Mr. Tulfo who outright accused the doctor of deliberately refusing to perform his duties as an ER doctor and of violating his Hippocratic Oath. 
We also learned that there was a violation of the Code of Ethics of Media Practitioners as stated in the 2007 Broadcast Code of the Philippines when the face of the minor victim was displayed in the Facebook video without prior consent and with the obvious displeasure of the minor and guardian.

We also would like to think that Mr. Tulfo had such high regard for the capabilities of our doctors at PGH that he took the time and effort to transport the victim of the vehicular accident from where the child was actually bumped in Navotas, 13 kilometers away, and brought the patient all the way to Taft Avenue, Manila, where PGH is located. This regard is further highlighted by the fact that despite there being multiple health facilities both public and private along the way, his hospital of choice for the victim remained to be PGH. 

We reiterate that at no point was necessary medical intervention withheld from the victim when the child was at the Triage of the ER of PGH. If ever there was any disruption in service to the victim it was directly caused by the behavior of Mr. Tulfo. 

We condemn in the strongest terms the behavior of Mr. Tulfo as completely unacceptable and unbecoming especially from a supposedly veteran journalist seeking help for the victim his vehicle had bumped. 

In the light of all the facts a public apology from Mr. Tulfo is warranted and a commitment to take down ASAP the video taken at PGH as well as all objectionable related posts.

It is our intention as well through this statement to forestall similar incidents by influential and powerful people from acting in a similar manner. It is the primary purpose of PGH to save lives. It is a difficult and often daunting task especially considering the realities of PGH. In this, our doctors are committed in dedicating their lives. It is our duty to defend against all who attempt to undermine this goal.