The government will turn five state hospitals into world-class medical clinics in a bid to keep affluent patients from seeking treatment overseas, at a time when many poor people are denied access to basic healthcare.
The hospitals are being developed to carry out the President's instructions to make medical services in Indonesia equal to those in other countries, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said.
"The provision of health services in hospitals in Indonesia is facing very tough challenges in this era of globalization," she said at the ground-breaking ceremony for the Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital's "international wing building" on Monday.
"President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono expects the Health Ministry to develop hospitals, especially public ones, of equal quality to world-class hospitals."
The new building will replace the hospital's IRNA B unit, from which dozens of poor patients were allegedly evicted a few months ago, sparking protests.
Siti said her ministry had allocated Rp 141 billion (US$15 million) for the first phase of construction of the international wing building and Rp 25 billion for the provision of medical equipment in 2008.
The construction of the building is scheduled for completion in 2010, with a total forecast cost of Rp 430 billion.
The other four hospitals are Kariadi Hospital in Semarang and Sanglah Hospital in Denpasar, Hasan Sadikin Hospital in Bandung and Jakarta's Harapan Kita Cardiac Hospital.
Every year, about 200,000 Indonesians fly abroad to get medical services in neighboring countries, especially Singapore and Malaysia. They spend a total of US$600 million.
The House of Representatives' Commission IX overseeing health and manpower issues has objected to the plan to create world-class services, arguing that about 76.4 million poor people are still dependent on the government's health insurance program.
Cipto's managing director Akmal Taher said the construction of the world-class unit was in accordance with the hospital's function as national reference center, which should be able to serve any kind of "difficult, complicated" case.
The aims of the hospital upgrade were to meet public demand for having "safe, secure and warm" services and to reduce the number of Indonesians going abroad for medical treatment, he added.
Cipto's international wing will have a burns center, stroke center and aseptic dispensing and stem cell center. Other facilities will include around 300 VIP and VVIP rooms, cluster-type polyclinics and elective surgery rooms.
The Health Ministry's director for specialist medical care, Mulya A. Hasjmy, said the four other hospitals were still "under preparation".
The world-class hospital construction program is being funded by the central government through the ministry and from each hospital's own budget, he said.