Indonesian healthcare workers worried as death toll climbs

JAKARTA (CNA) – On March 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.

Health officials check people, who have symptoms of COVID-19, to conduct rapid tests for the disease in Bandung, West Java yesterday. PHOTO: AFP

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.

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 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.

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 IDR300 million (USD18,622) will be disbursed as compensation money for each healthcare worker death. This will be given in regions that have announced a state of emergency.

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 IDR5-15 million.