Health workers often risk their lives to serve communities in remote parts of Papua. (Antara Photo/Gusti Tanati)

Indonesia Mourns Heroic Nurse Who Died in Papua Hinterland

JUNE 26, 2019

Jakarta. In a stark reminder of the challenges Indonesia faces in providing proper health care for all in the vast archipelago, the country mourns the death of 31-year-old Patra M. Jauhari, a nurse who served the community in a remote village in Papua. 

Patra was one of several health workers assigned to Wondama Bay district, West Papua, according to a statement the local government issued on Tuesday. He arrived in Oya village in April on a three-month assignment. 

The village is so remote, it can only be reached by helicopter or on foot, which takes about three or four days from Naikere, the nearest town. There are no roads, let alone telecommunication facilities.

Patra fell ill two weeks ago and his condition deteriorated to such an extent that three villagers decided to walk to Naikere to ask the government to send a helicopter to transport Patra to a hospital. They reached Naikere on June 18.

The Wondama Bay district government, which does not have access to a helicopter, immediately started sourcing an aircraft, but the one belonging to their usual partner, international charity foundation Helivida, was unavailable at the time. 

On June 19, the local government got in touch with another company, Intan Angkasa Nabire, which would have had a helicopter available in two days. 

But on Friday, June 21, another two Oya villagers arrived in Naikere to convey the news that Patra had already died on June 18. 

The helicopter belonging to Intan Angkasa, which was delayed by a day due to bad weather, was dispatched on Saturday to fetch Patra's remains. But the local government, in consultation with Patra's family, decided to bury him in Wasior, the largest village in Wondama Bay district, due to the condition of his body.

"He was a public servant who was earnest in his work and faithful in carrying out his duties. In the name of the local government and the people of Wondama, we thank you and convey our highest appreciation. We cannot return your service; but God will," Wondama Bay district head Bernardus Imburi said at Patra's funeral on Monday, as quoted by 

Bernardus said the government granted a posthumous promotion to Patra, who had served in Wondama Bay since 2012. He was the youngest of four siblings from Palomo, South Sulawesi. He was unmarried.

Kompas newspaper was the first to report Patra's death on Monday. The news was met with an outpouring of grief and anguish on social media. 

The report gave a different account of the circumstances surrounding Patra's death. According to Kompas, quoting Tomas Waropen, head of the Naikere health center, Patra and another nurse had been in Oya since February. 

They were due to be picked up in May and replaced by relief personnel, who never showed up.

Patra's colleague decided to leave the village on foot, but he chose to remain until his replacement arrived, exhausting all the provisions and medicines he had brought with him to continue serving the community.

"Patra is a hero to the Mairasi people [the tribe living in Naikere]. While many of us, the children of this country, turn into Judases," Kompas quoted Tomas as saying, referring to the apostle who betrayed Jesus.

Indonesians expressed their condolences on Twitter and Facebook, lauding Patra as a hero.

Others noted the uphill challenges the government must overcome to provide proper health care in the country.

"Deep condolences on the death of Patra Marina Jauhari, the health worker of Wondama Bay, West Papua. Transportation constraints and inaccessibility are obstacles to health services. The health sector and the central government cannot work alone," one person tweeted.