Sun, 05 Jan 2003

Jailed American nurse to be transported to Jakarta

Nani Farida and Debbie A. Lubis, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta/Banda Aceh

Lawyers of jailed American nurse Joy Lee Sadler expressed on Saturday their disappointment with the refusal by all of the hospitals in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province to treat their client, and said that Sadler would be sent to a hospital in Jakarta soon.

Rufriadi, one of Sadler's lawyers, said top lawyer Todung Mulya Lubis had discussed the fate of Sadler with Minister of Justice and Human Rights Yusril Ihza Mahendra.

"According to Todung, Yusril has no objections to Sadler being transferred to a hospital in Jakarta," Rufriadi told The Jakarta Post.

Sadler was convicted on Monday of visa violations and sentenced to four months in jail. She is due to be released next Friday after being given credit for time already served.

She has been seeking medical treatment since Thursday, but hospitals in Aceh refused to admit the 57-year-old nurse from Waterloo, Iowa, because of her HIV-positive status.

Sadler is seriously ill after a 41-day hunger strike to protest her detention, during which she only drank fruit juice. Hepatitis B and C also have weakened her.

Sadler had to spend Friday night at a hotel in Aceh after her team of lawyers from the Aceh Legal Aid Institute (LBH Aceh) failed to persuade any of the province's hospitals to treat her. Keudah Penitentiary, which had given permission for her to be treated in the hospital, was already closed by the time the last hospital had refused to admit Sadler.

Sadler returned to the penitentiary without receiving medical care.

"This is a human tragedy. All of the medical workers have taken oaths not to discriminate against a person's race, religion or ethnicity in providing medical care," he said.

Sadler was initially taken to Zainoel Abidin Hospital, later moving to Harapan Bunda Hospital and Malahayati Hospital. The first hospital refused her because it said it had no more beds available, while the management of Harapan Bunda Hospital refused to admit Sadler for fear that she would give HIV to other patients in the hospital.

The third hospital asked Sadler's lawyer to wait and did not get back to them until late at night.

Sadler is now being cared for by the penitentiary's physician.

Cut Idawani, head of the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam Health Office, said her office would question the hospitals about the incident because their medical workers had been trained to treat HIV-infected people.

She said no warning letters or sanctions would be given to the hospitals, but vowed to provide special medical treatment to Sadler if necessary.

"I just found out about the problem after reading the local newspapers. I am convinced that they rejected her (Sadler) because of their lack of information about HIV and excessive anxiety," Idawani told the Post by phone.

He added that the hospitals had violated Article 4 of Law No. 8/1999 on consumer protection, which stipulates that consumers have the right to receive service without discrimination.

Sadler's prison companion, Scottish-born academic Lesley Jane McCulloch, said on Saturday she regretted the hospitals' actions.

"Why did they reject her? Is it because she is a convict or her illness?" she asked.

Police have detained both Sadler and McCulloch since Sept. 11, 2002.