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Jakarta Post

Frontline health workers left waiting for promised stimulus

  • Ghina Ghaliya
    Ghina Ghaliya

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, May 23, 2020   /   06:01 am
Frontline health workers left waiting for promised stimulus A medical worker checks equipment in a temporary COVID-19 hospital at the Kemayoran Athletes Village in Central Jakarta on March 3. (Kompas/Pool/Heru Sri Kumoro)

Medical workers treating COVID-19 patients in Jakarta have reported that they have yet to receive the financial incentives announced by the central government and provincial administration in March.

A Jakarta-based general practitioner Arif, who asked to use a pseudonym, discussed his and other colleagues’ experiences while treating COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU), emergency rooms and other wards in a hospital in Jakarta. He is also treating suspected and confirmed patients with mild symptoms in isolation rooms.

Arif, who chose not to reveal the name of the hospital where he works, said it was part of a private hospital group appointed by the government to treat emerging infectious disease patients, as stipulated in a circular issued by the Health Ministry.

However, he has yet to hear any news regarding the government’s incentives for medical workers at the hospital.

“I haven't received any government incentives or information about it from hospital management. I’ve only obtained an additional safety risk payment from my hospital amounting to between Rp 300,000 [US$20.16] and Rp 500,000," Arif told The Jakarta Post on Friday.

Read also: Bonuses slashed, pay cut: Indonesian nurses fight pandemic, financial hardships

President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo said previously that the government had allocated Rp 5.9 trillion to be given as incentives to medical workers treating confirmed patients. The government said it would provide each medical specialist an incentive of Rp 15 million, physicians and dentists Rp 10 million, nurses Rp 7.5 million and other medical staff members Rp 5 million.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan previously announced an additional Rp 215,000 daily incentive for medical workers in the capital city.

Since the two leaders announced the programs in March, neither has given any updates on the progress of payments. Meanwhile, medical workers in many hospitals have seen a cut in their salaries and Idul Fitri holiday bonuses.

Arif’s experience was echoed by Ratna, who also chose to be referred to with a pseudonym. She is nurse who treats COVID-19 patients in the ICU of the Fatmawati General Hospital in South Jakarta.

She said she and her colleagues had yet to receive any financial incentives, as the hospital had to verify the employees’ attendance, punctuality and the extent to which they were exposed to the virus before distributing the funds.

“I’ve asked my hospital’s financial and human resources divisions. They replied that they were still counting the number of people eligible for it," she said.

Arif saw a 30 to 35 percent cut in his paycheck last month. His salary is determined by the number of patients he treats, and the Health Ministry has stated that the occupancy rate of hospitals has dropped by between 20 and 50 percent nationwide.

In addition, the ministry has not fully paid the hospital’s claims for PDPs, thus affecting the facility’s revenue.

Meanwhile, Ratna, a contract worker, had her salary cut by about 30 to 40 percent last month.

Read also: More Indonesian doctors, nurses die fighting against COVID-19

The secretary of the ministry’s Health Service Directorate General, Agus Hadian Rahim, said the central government had been working to pay the incentives to medical workers. “We’re processing the payments and the hospitals’ claims,” he said without elaborating further.

The Jakarta Health Agency did not respond to the Post’s request for comment.

As of Friday, 6,400 cases of COVID-19 had been confirmed in the capital and 500 people had died.

Institute for the Development of Economics and Finance (Indef) economist Bhima Yudhistira urged the Health Ministry and the Jakarta administration to pay the stimulus.

“Financial hardship can affect medical workers’ performance. An immediate stimulus is urgently needed because they are fighting on the front lines against the disease,” he said.