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Jakarta Post

Indonesian medical workers threaten to stop COVID-19 treatment if protective gear not provided

  • News Desk

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, March 28, 2020   /   01:29 pm
Indonesian medical workers threaten to stop COVID-19 treatment if protective gear not provided A medical worker wears makeshift personal protective equipment made from a raincoat at Soesilo Regional Hospital, Tegal regency, Central Java on March 18, 2020. (Antara/Oky Lukmansyah)

Medical worker associations in the country have threatened to stop treating COVID-19 patients if the government does not ensure the availability of protective health gear amid a shortage of such equipment.

The warning was stipulated in a joint statement issued on Friday by several medical worker associations, including the Indonesian Medical Association (IDI), the Indonesian Dentist Association (PDGI) and the Indonesian Nurses Association (PPNI).

IDI chairman Daeng M. Faqih confirmed the joint statement: “We issued it for the sake of our colleagues’ safety. If they are infected with the disease, who will treat patients at medical facilities?” he told The Jakarta Post on Saturday.

The associations asserted that medical workers were susceptible to the disease, especially the ones handling people infected by COVID-19 without wearing protective equipment. The equipment shortage, they argued, would not only harm the lives of medical workers, but also cause disruption in medical services.

Read also: COVID-19: Inadequate medical supplies take toll on lives of Indonesian medical workers

The statement was issued in the wake of the death of at least 10 medical workers who struggled in treating COVID-19 patients over the past few weeks.

Despite the woeful reality, Daeng said there still might be a few medical workers who courageously went to save COVID-19 patients’ lives despite wearing no protective equipment. Such concern also urged the associations to issue the statement.

“We are also raising concern over the matter because infected medical workers will only add to the burden on their colleagues,” he added.

In a bid to protect the safety of medical workers treating the disease, the IDI and the PDGI also issued a circular containing COVID-19 prevention guidelines for medical workers. The circular, he said, had been disseminated to all medical facilities along with the statement on Friday.

“We acknowledge that the guidelines are not perfect. However, we hope that the management of the medical facilities will follow what we have suggested,” Daeng said.

Since mid-February, Indonesia’s health workers, doctors and nurses have been working overtime to treat COVID-19 cases, despite many of them having inadequate personal protection. Many of the medical workers were found to have worn makeshift personal protective gear, including raincoats, in lieu of hazmat suits.

Read also: Indonesian fashion designers help sew, donate protective gear for medical workers

To address the issue, the Indonesian Military (TNI) has been distributing 151,000 pieces of protective equipment from the national warehouse at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base for the past week. The distribution, however, has drastically decreased the supply of the equipment as only 19,000 pieces of equipment remain in stock from the initial 170,000.

Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD admitted that the stock was inadequate to accommodate medical workers across the country as Indonesia needed millions of pieces of protective equipment until September, according to the government’s worst-case scenario of the pandemic.

However, he said the government had conducted a meeting regarding the issue on Friday to prepare the budget and the distribution mechanism of the equipment.

“We were slightly worried after realizing that the equipment had started to run out, but we have prepared the budget to buy more,” Mahfud said during a press briefing on Friday. “We are optimistic to address the issue since many local manufacturers have also committed to producing more protective equipment.” (glh)