Wed, 19 Mar 2003

Poor hospital services for the poor

Sari P. Setiogi The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Ibu Mardani had been waiting at Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital (RSCM) for two-and-a-half hours. It was lunchtime but she could not go and get some food.

"I was asked to wait for the doctor. I have been waiting since 10 a.m. A nurse told me the doctor is in a meeting," she said, "but several patients who came after me have already gone into the doctor's room and have left."

She sat on the floor in her kain -- a traditional piece of Indonesian cloth that is wrapped around the lower body, now worn mostly by older women. She has been suffering painful headaches for the last several days.

"I cannot do much. This is the only hospital that my family can afford," said Mardani. "I have no choice. What I need is to get medicine for my headache."

Tati, a mother of three, told The Jakarta Post that last month she brought her feverish son to RSCM's emergency room.

"I was in a panic. I did not have enough money. None of the hospital employees were willing to help us. The nurse asked me for a down payment.

"Then I had to leave my son with my sister-in-law for a while, to go find some money. After I finally secured several hundred thousands of rupiah, a doctor finally came and looked at my son," she said.

Sumedi, from Senen, Central Jakarta, came to the hospital to get his eyes checked. He said most of the nurses treated him coldly.

"Most of the nurses are very unfriendly and uncommunicative," he said. "When I asked them to explain something, they used medical terms I couldn't understand."

Tati also complained about the shabbiness of the hospital. "RSCM may be a hospital for poor people, but its in bad condition and some areas are not up to the standards of a hospital."

The Post found on Monday several people sitting on the floor along the hospital's corridors. Some were lying down on the wooden benches in front of the treatment rooms, while others sat on the floor because there were no more chairs.

One patient was sitting in her wheelchair in a corridor, accompanied by a friend, trying to get some fresh air. A continuous flow of people passed through the corridor, talking and laughing.

Next to the woman in the wheelchair was a large pole covered with flyers and posters, some of which had expired more than a month ago. It looked more like a bus stop wall than a hospital.

An old man spat on the tiled floor and walked away. A patient was sleeping in a hospital bed in front of the nurse's station in the cardiology ward, while many people milled around. Near the elevator on the fourth floor, an old engine was lying on the ground, covered with oil and dust, no doubt waiting for treatment.