Wed, 17 May 2000

Dozens admitted to hospital for food poisoning

JAKARTA (JP): Dozens of participants of two training programs held at Bumi Karsa Hotel in South Jakarta and at least two staff members of the hotel were rushed to the hotel's clinic and nearby hospitals after suffering nausea and vomiting.

Some of them also fainted.

The victims, the hotel's security officers and local police believe food poisoning was the cause.

Besides the two hotel staffers, the other victims were participants of training programs organized separately by Bank Indonesia and PT BASF chemical producer.

However, the hotel's security chief, Col. (ret) Hari Sutanto, said participants of eight other meetings held in different rooms at the hotel consumed the same food and drinks from the same food catering company but suffered no problems at all.

"I still have no idea why only participants in the two meeting rooms become ill," Hari, a former senior officer at the Information Department of the National Police Headquarters, said a few hours after the incident.

Hari, however, refused to mention the name of the catering company, which he said had been regularly used by the hotel.

The hotel's public relations manager, Baby, said the case was still being investigated.

"We have already given samples of the food and beverages to the laboratory at the Bidakara medical clinic for investigation purposes," she said.

Separately, Second Lt. Sukirman of South Jakarta Police crime scene unit said several samples of the allegedly "poisonous snack" had been sent to the National Police Forensics Laboratory Center (Puslabfor) for further examination.

"No one has been arrested yet. We have to get the full results first from Puslabfor," Sukirman said.

After receiving first aid at the hotel's clinic, some of the participants were allowed to leave. Several others were hastily admitted to the nearby Tebet Hospital and Medistra Hospital.

By evening, 22 participants were still being treated at Tebet Hospital, and another at Medistra Hospital.

According to Hari, 40 people attended the central bank's meeting, including staff from private banks, in the Utari Room on the second floor of the hotel.

Some 30 people attended PT BASF's training program in a meeting room on the fourth floor, he explained.

He said 30 people fell ill.

"The first 14 were from PT BASF, 14 from the central bank meeting and two hotel staffers named Rahmi and Jumari," Hari said.

But the figure was slightly higher, according to medical sources.

A nurse at Tebet Hospital said the hospital had treated at least 40 people.

"We let 18 of them go home while we are still treating the other 22," she added.

Sources at Medistra Hospital said four people from the hotel meetings had registered at the hospital.

Hari said the hotel's security staff first received a report about the incident at 12:45 p.m., saying some of the meeting participants had suffered vomiting and headaches.

"Dr. Murni from the hotel's clinic rushed to the Utari Room and applied first aid. But the number grew bigger as participants from another meeting room also rushed to the clinic," he said.

One hospital patient, Anton, a staffer at Bank Artha Graha's credit department, recalled that the panic started at between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.

"I ate semar mendem (glutinous rice snack with meat filling) at around 10:30 a.m. And several minutes later I got stomach cramps," he said from his bed at Tebet Hospital.

Ranti Darmala, the remaining patient being treated at Medistra Hospital, said she first started vomiting and developed a headache before losing consciousness after eating semar mendem.

"I ate a snack at 9 a.m. I came down with food poisoning two hours later and then fell unconscious," said Ranti, a Bank Indonesia staffer.

According to Ranti, participants of the meeting were served two kinds of snacks, including semar mendem.

"I don't know the name of the other snack," she said.

Nurse Bernita of Tebet Hospital disclosed that the ailing victims showed symptoms of food poisoning.

"They all complained of discomfort in the stomach, vomiting and defecation just before lunch time," she said.

Another nurse at the hospital said the condition of the remaining patients had improved.

"We don't have special treatment for them. We only give them fluids intravenously," she said. (06/09/nvn/ylt/asa)