A pediatrician wearing cartoon-themed personal protective equipment welcomes a patient at Tambak Children Hospital in Jakarta in June (Antara Photo/Rivan Awal Lingga)

Covid-19 Kills Indonesian Doctors at a Far Higher Rate Than in the US


AUGUST 03, 2020

Jakarta. At least 72 doctors have died from Covid-19 in the five months the health workers battling with the increasing number of cases in the country, putting Indonesia among the countries with the highest death rate among doctors in the world, the Indonesian Doctors Association, or IDI, said on Sunday. 

Losing a high number of doctors also meant hundreds of thousands of Indonesian might lose access to doctor service over the next decade.

Mohammad Adib Khumaidi, IDI Executive Board's deputy chairman, said today the Covid-19 death rate among doctors in Indonesia reached 2.4 percent. That was six times higher than the United States — currently the country with the highest number of Covid-19 cases — that only recorded 0.37 percent of the death rate among its doctors as of July 13, he said.

In comparison, the Covid-19 case fatality rate among Indonesia's general population now stood at 4.7 percent. 

Adib said the association estimated the deaths would leave 223,000 Indonesians without doctor service over the next nine years — which was the deceased doctors' average expected number of remaining service-year. That figure was higher than that of Egypt, which would see 222,000 people affected by the loss of their doctors, as well as the US (195,000), United Kingdom (193,000), and Brazil (160,000). 

The high number of deaths among doctors exposed to Indonesia's health system capacity for pandemic detection, isolation, and therapy was still inadequate. 

"In other countries, there may be more cases, but their testing capability is also high. That translates to low death rate among medical personnel," Adib said. 

Halik Malik, the association's spokesman, said all the doctors died while on duty treating Covid-19 patients with a limited amount of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Health facilities could not screen patients entering their premises. Also, limited spaces in the facilities to separate Covid-19 patients from other patients meant that doctors might unnecessarily be exposed to the disease, even when they were not treating the Covid-19 patients, Halik said. 

"Besides, there are also other risk factors for vulnerability such as age and comorbid diseases [that the doctors have]," Halik said.

Halik said IDI had established an audit team to explore and investigate the doctors' death during the Covid-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, IDI urged the government to improve the safety of the health workers. 

"There must be safety guarantees for health workers such as shift arrangements or working hours that are not excessive, standard PPE, additional incentives, support for accommodation and transportation, and regular screening," Halik said.

"The government needs to open access RT PCR or swab tests to all hospitals for screening officers regularly," Halik said.