March 25, 2023


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‘We are worried,’ say Indonesian healthcare workers as COVID-19 takes toll on medical system

JAKARTA: On Saturday (Mar 21), Dr Djoko Judodjoko breathed his last in a Jakarta hospital.

The 70-year-old, who had underlying health conditions, was treated for COVID-19 earlier.

He was one of the seven doctors nationwide who contracted coronavirus and eventually passed away, according to the Indonesian Medical Association. More than 40 healthcare workers are currently being treated for COVID-19. 

Dr Judodjoko’s brother-in-law, Dr Pandu Riono, tweeted: “Farewell brother Koko. Forgive me for not being able to push the government under @jokowi to seriously overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. You’re infected when in active service. Many health workers have been infected and left. The (excuse) of lack of PPE (personal protective equipment) is not forgivable.”

“It’s not enough to talk, we need to act,” the public health expert from the University of Indonesia wrote.

The number of COVID-19 cases involving healthcare workers has led their colleagues across the country to be more vigilant, while appealing for urgent measures to be taken to safeguard them.

“These are not just numbers, not just statistics. These are human beings,” Dr Riono told CNA. 

In another interview with CNA, nurse Siswanto, who goes by one name, said he is concerned about the deaths among COVID-19 medical workers.

“I am worried … The local government must provide the nurses with full personal protective equipment,” he said. 

He is with Gunung Jati hospital in Cirebon, West Java. The hospital has so far treated two COVID-19 patients, one of which passed away while the other has been discharged.

In Malang city, East Java, the head of tropical and infectious disease at Dr Saiful Anwar Hospital shared similar sentiments.

“Doctors and nurses are at a very high risk of contracting the disease, so protection, especially PPE needs to be the main priority,” Dr Didi Candradikusuma told CNA.

A worker sprays disinfectant at school to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in B

A worker sprays disinfectant at school to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Bogor, near Jakarta, Indonesia, March 19, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Yulius Satria Wijaya/ via REUTERS

In an earlier interview, the doctor told CNA that general equipment at the hospital like gloves and masks should be sufficient for the next four months. However, he now says there is a shortage due to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases.

“The amount is not enough because the demand is high and we’re running out of supplies.

“So donations should be given in the form of PPE or medical equipment instead of money,” he added.

At the moment, the Dr Saiful Anwar Hospital is handling three COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, in Jakarta, referral hospital Persahabatan has called for all medical teams in the archipelago to be extra vigilant and maintain personal health, as four doctors who were treated at the hospital have died.

“The patients were professional health practitioners, so we as health workers must be vigilant,” managing director of Persahabatan Hospital Rita Rogayah said on Monday.

READ: From athlete’s village to hotel, Indonesian government prepares makeshift facilities for COVID-19

READ: Experts and politicians call for Indonesian government to intensify efforts to detect COVID-19

Dr Siti Pratiekauri, who works at another Jakarta COVID-19 referral hospital Sulianti Saroso, said the medical professionals are experiencing emotional ups and downs but they try to support each other.  She is responsible for training healthcare workers to deal with the virus.

“The government should support us and pay attention to us.

“We are very happy that people think of us by giving donations, PPE … and wreaths with words of encouragement supporting us. This helps us mentally,” Dr Pratiekauri said.

On Monday, President Joko Widodo sent his condolences to the medical workers who have passed away. He also said that 300 million rupiah (US$18,622) will be disbursed as compensation money for each healthcare worker death. This will be given in regions that have announced a state of emergency.

Mr Widodo also announced that specialist doctors, general practitioners, dentists, midwives and nurses, as well as other medical workers will each be given a monthly incentive. This will range from 5 million rupiah to 15 million rupiah.

Across the country, COVID-19 cases have reached 709 as of Wednesday, with 58 deaths.


Apart from the seven doctors, the Indonesian Medical Association also recorded that a doctor who was part of a regional COVID-19 task force has died of a heart attack and apparent fatigue.

A man wearing face mask is sprayed inside a disinfection chamber, outside a shopping mall after Ind

FILE PHOTO: A man wearing face mask is sprayed inside a disinfection chamber, outside a shopping mall after Indonesia’s capital begins a two-week emergency period to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia, March 24, 2020. REUTERS/Willy Kurniawan

The association is looking into the causes of all the deaths, and is highlighting what it says is a bigger problem.

“The problem at the moment is that many of our colleagues need to be isolated because they have come into contact with COVID-19 patients and have complained about symptoms (of COVID-19).

“We’ve received this report from colleagues in Jakarta, Surabaya and Malang,” Dr Mohammad Adib Khumaidi, deputy head of the Indonesian Medical Association said.

The reason for this is the lack of PPE, he added.

READ: COVID-19: Concerns among some Indonesian hospitals over availability of medical equipment

READ: Jakarta police tracking down mastermind behind illegal surgical mask factory

The Jakarta government indicated that at least 44 health workers in the capital have been infected by COVID-19 as of Tuesday.

“One thing for sure, given the current situation, they (the health workers) have no option than to treat the patients without full personal protective equipment,” Dr Khumaidi stated.

Dr Pratiekauri of Sulianti Saroso added: “We’re running out of PPE stock. We’ll be out of supply this week. We try to get it from here and there but the thing is, we’re competing against other hospitals.”

Indonesia on Monday received a batch of PPE from China, and has started to distribute them across the archipelago, but Dr Pratiekauri said it is not enough.

“We’ve received 1,500 hazmat suits but that will be gone in five days,” she said adding that they especially need masks, thermometers and shoe protectors.

Dr Riono, the brother-in-law of the late Dr Judodjoko, said the lack of PPE is one of the reasons why medical workers lost their lives in the battle against COVID-19.


He said Dr Judodjoko was, in fact, not treating COVID-19 cases.

He opined that every health facility personnel, including doctors who operate their own private practice, should have been educated that they were likely serving people who had already been infected.

“They should have been given personal protective equipment.  Many doctors were not aware, they thought they were handling normal patients who had complaints but what happened was they (the patients) were infecting the doctors.

“That’s why in the first few months, many health workers will be infected,” he said.

Visitors sit on social distancing benches at a hospital to prevent the spread of coronavirus diseas

Visitors sit on social distancing benches at a hospital to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Padang, West Sumatera Province, Indonesia March 21, 2020 in this photo taken by Antara Foto. Antara Foto/Muhammad Arif Pribadi/ via REUTERS

Separately, a nurse who works at the same hospital as one of the doctors who died also said the 34-year-old doctor was not tending to COVID-19 patients. 

The hospital is wondering how he could have gotten infected, said the nurse who declined to be named.

READ: Concerns over Indonesia’s apparent lack of coordination in releasing information on first COVID-19 death

READ: Ignoring government appeals, some Jakarta mosques hold Friday prayers

Dr Riono noted: “What now is happening is that many people in Indonesia have already been infected but do not yet know because there are limited testing kits.” Close to 800 people have tested positive in Indonesia.

The public health expert added: “Protection to the health workers is number one. Don’t bother thinking about incentives, they don’t work for money … they work because it is their calling.”

He said if Indonesia has problems with PPE supply, it could produce them domestically.

Dr Moewardi hospital in Solo told CNA they have been producing their own hazmat suits for the last few days as they couldn’t buy them anywhere.

Regardless of the tough situation, Mr Siswanto, the nurse said there is something everyone can do.

“The community (at large) has to follow the government’s regulations and obey social distancing.”

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