Sat, 23 Aug 2003

Hospitals criticized for malpractice

A'an Suryana, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) Farid Anfasa Moeloek warned on Friday that a good number of hospitals in Jakarta and several other cities had allegedly committed fraudulent practices.

Farid, a former health minister, based his allegation on the excessive number of Caesarean operations conducted on women.

Declining to identify the hospitals, Farid said 90 percent of women who delivered their babies underwent a Caesarean in those hospitals, while the normal percentage should stand at only 15 percent.

"It is apparent that the hospital has done the operations in order to rake in more money. This practice must be halted immediately," Farid told reporters after addressing a seminar held by Pluit General Hospital in North Jakarta.

A Caesarean costs around Rp 4 million, but could be higher in the more upmarket hospitals.

Marius Widjajarta, the chairman of the Indonesian Health Consumers Foundation, told The Jakarta Post that the practice was a public secret. He said it was related to tight competition among hospitals.

According to Marius, in some cases patients themselves asked for a Caesarean as they felt that it was the safest way to deliver a baby. "However, despite the request, hospitals should advise the patients whether they really need such an operation or not," he said.

Marius called on people to be more aware of these practices and to take legal action if they felt hospitals or doctors had misguided or deceived them, as stipulated in Law No. 8/1999 on consumer protection.

Farid, who is also an obstetrician, demanded that the government provide a legal umbrella to deter hospitals from taking advantage of patients' lack of knowledge.

Besides the consumer protection law, the government should introduce a medical audit system in the country, he said.

A medical audit would allow the authorities to detect malpractice. The audit should be carried out by an independent team of medical practitioners, clinics and hospitals.

"The government should incorporate the medical audit into the bill on medical practices now being drafted," said Farid.

He said the United Kingdom was one of the countries which had already adopted a medical audit, and suggested that Indonesia follow suit.