Mon, 26 May 2003

`Workers unaware of health benefits'

Ridwan Max Sijabat, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Perhaps only a small percentage, if any, of the 24 million workers covered by the government-run social security program, have received the first class medical treatment they are entitled to at appointed hospitals under the government-run health care scheme after occupational accidents.

Most do not know that medical costs for such incidents are fully covered by PT Jamsostek, the state-owned insurance company that runs the social security program.

As a result, many low-income workers, who get injured on the job have to get loans from their neighbors or colleagues to get medical treatment, while many others simply cannot afford adequate medical care and become handicapped or die due to a lack of medical treatment.

In several cases, many people who have suffered serious injuries due to workplace accidents, have had their hands or legs amputated because of belated medical care.

The 2002 data from Jamsostek showed that an average of 443 occupational accidents befell its 24 million workers everyday, and the death toll for its members averaged eight per day.

According to the trend from 1996 throughout 2002, the number of occupational accidents is expected to double in the next ten years.

Meanwhile, of 108,000 private and state companies participating in the social security program, only a small percentage have been compensated for the medical costs incurred as a result of workplace accidents.

Most workers and employers have failed to take advantage of the health care scheme because of their lack of understanding and/or due to the complicated procedure.

Many workers assume that they only have a right to third-rate medical care and that just a portion of their medical costs were covered by the health scheme.

Dr. Emir Bernas Soendoro, an orthopedic surgeon at the state- run Cipto Mangunkusumo General Hospital, reminded all workers who are part of the social security program, of their right to first- class medical treatment at certain hospitals which are Jamsostek's partners in the health care scheme.

"According to a government regulation enforcing Law No 3/1992 on social security programs, participants (workers) involved in occupational accidents have the right to first-class medical service up to a maximum cost of Rp 6.4 million," he said over the weekend.

He conceded that many low-income factory workers -- also those most likely to get injured at work -- considered themselves second class citizens so they rarely complained about inadequate medical treatment.

The law requires employers to pay six percent of their married workers' monthly salaries for the health care scheme.

In addition, journalists who become victims of violence while covering violent stories such as war or demonstrations, are also entitled to top notch medical care and compensation from Jamsostek, but rarely receive it.

Emir declined to comment when asked why Jamsostek had been less than proactive in disseminating information about the health care scheme, but instead referred to the number of hospital partnerships the company had.

"Jamsostek needs to increase partnerships with hospitals first, so we can improve service for workers," he explained.

Jamsostek's Operation Director Joko Sungkono admitted his company was not proactive about letting people know what they were entitled to, but said it was developing trauma centers in its partner hospitals for injured workers.

"So far we have succeeded in setting up ten centers valued at Rp 3 billion, complete with ambulances, and they are in hospitals adjacent to industrial zones in the country. Some 24 more are still being prepared in other hospitals," he said.

Emir appreciated the establishment of the trauma centers but said workers employed in industrial zones should have a special area at the hospitals to provide special services for them.

"The establishment of such a labor pavilion is cheaper than a labor hospital that could cost more than Rp 100 billion," he stated.