Fri, 23 May 2003

RI lacks surgeons: ISA

Sari P. Setiogi, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

With a population of over 200 million, Indonesia has only about 2,000 surgeons, a ratio of 1 to 100,000, which is ten times less than the ideal situation for a country.

"Ideally, there should be one surgeon for every 10,000 people," said chairman of the Indonesian Surgeons Association (ISA) Puruhito on the sidelines of the opening of Indo Surgitex 2003 here on Thursday.

Indo Surgitex 2003, or Indonesian Surgical Technology Expo, is the first expo on surgical technology in the country. Authorities plan to hold it annually.

Puruhito said the capacity of the country's medical schools to turn out surgeons was still limited, while the population was still growing rapidly.

As an example, Purohito, who is also the rector of the University of Airlangga, Surabaya, East Java, said the university was only able to graduate about 60 surgeons a year.

The other problem faced by surgeons in Indonesia, he said, was the expensive surgery costs.

This costly surgery, said Purohito, prompted surgeons to avoid the poor and less-populated regions. Most surgeons are concentrated in Jakarta and other large cities.

A coronary surgery in the country would cost about Rp 35 million (US$4,300). As compared to a similar operation abroad, which would cost about US$25,000, the one here is far cheaper. However, surgery is still unaffordable for most Indonesians.

There are two main causes for the expensive surgery, according to Purohito. One was the expensive tax on medical equipment, while the other was the distribution costs to hospitals.

Purohito urged the government to slash import taxes for several medical tools, particularly surgery equipment.

Commenting on this issue, Minister of Health Achmad Sujudi, said such a policy might be adopted, but the decision had to be made by the Ministry of Trade and Industry.