Mon, 08 Dec 2003

Poor residents get free health service

P.C. Naommy The Jakarta Post Jakarta

Hundreds of residents, including children, of Kebon Kosong and Gunung Sahari Selatan subdistricts, Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, were impatiently waiting their turn to get a free medical check up and medicine.

For the residents from the lower-income bracket, the service provided on Saturday by the Jakarta chapter of the Chinese- Indonesian Association (INTI) at Mega Glodok shopping mall in Kemayoran could save them from otherwise expensive health services.

Janariah, 35, brought her daughter, Erni, 15, who has a skin allergic. According to Janariah, if the allergic recurs, it could spread all over Erni's body.

"I brought her to a doctor once, but he suggested that we go to a dermatologist. How can I afford a specialist? My husband is only a public minivan driver," she told The Jakarta Post.

Working hand-in-hand with the developer of Mega Glodok mall, INTI have engaged the services of 15 physicians led by Lie Dharmawan from Husada Hospital to serve the residents on a regular basis, starting on Saturday.

The head of the subdistrict administration will register the patients and distribute a ticket to each of the residents beforehand.

"We have to bring the ticket along. My husband got it from our subdistrict chief yesterday, who told us to bring our sick daughter to get free medical treatment," said Ani, 35, who was trying to soothe her two-and-half-year old daughter Ines.

Ani said Ines has had a fever for the last several days, although the couple had brought her to a public health center.

"We could not afford to go to a doctor in a hospital because my husband only works as a technician in a repair shop."

Karta Winata, president commissioner of Mega Glodok, who was observing the free health service, said the program is the first step toward helping the surrounding community.

Didit A. Sunarko, a staff member of INTI who is responsible for carrying out the field survey before setting up the program, said the program was also part of the contribution made by the Tionghoa, or Chinese-Indonesians in the country.

"We realized that merely changing our names from Chinese names to Indonesian names would not close the gap between the Tionghoa people and indigenous Indonesians," added Didit.

INTI itself was established in April 1999, after the tragic riots in May 1998 of which many Chinese-Indonesians were victims. INTI members are now engaged in the struggle to create a non- violent community to live in.

"We have to learn from the history," said INTI cofounder Benny G. Setiono. "We are trying to open ourselves more to the public to let them know that we are also Indonesia nationals who are trying to give our contribution to this nation."

The Saturday service opened with an explanation about floods, and how to prevent them, the ailments that are usually caused by floods such as diarrhea, lung infections and malaria.

According to Didit, INTI also has a mobile clinic that provides free health services for residents of rural areas, which started operation in September.