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Jakarta Post

COVID-19: Southeast Sulawesi hospital runs out of masks

  • Ivany Atina Arbi
    Ivany Atina Arbi

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Wed, March 18, 2020   /   08:15 pm
COVID-19: Southeast Sulawesi hospital runs out of masks Workers wear face masks a preventive measure against the spread of COVID-19 at the Sultan Iskandar Muda International airport in Blang Bintang, Aceh, on Monday. (AFP/Chaideer Mahyuddin)

Bahteramas Regional General Hospital, the only referral center for COVID-19 patients in Kendari, Southeast Sulawesi, reportedly ran out of surgical masks on Wednesday, resulting in the postponement of several elective surgeries.

The hospital head Sjarif Subijakto said on Wednesday that five scheduled non-urgent surgeries would be pushed back to the following day due to the lack of protective gear.

"We decided to prioritize urgent surgeries and delay the non-urgent ones, because of the situation," Sjarif said. "We’ve run helter-skelter looking for the masks, but we’ve only managed to get one box of them."

He said the masks had been distributed to patients and medical workers who needed them most.

Some medical personnel at the hospital were forced to wear cloth masks, which can only trap large particles and are not effective at blocking virus particles, Sjarif added.

Read also: COVID-19: Indonesia bans face mask exports to cater to domestic demand

Regions across the archipelago have reported a shortage of face masks as people rush to buy them amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in the country. As of Wednesday, health authorities had confirmed 227 positive cases, 19 of which had died from the disease while 11 others had recovered.

Panic buying has caused mask shortages in several hospitals in Indonesia, putting medical personnel taking care of COVID-19 patients at high risk of infection. At least one nurse had died of COVID-19 as of Wednesday.

The World Health Organization has said that face masks should be worn only by people who are ill – especially anyone who is coughing or sneezing – and by those caring for suspected COVID-19 patients, particularly health workers and those sharing living space with someone in self-isolation.