A medical worker attends to a patient in an isolation ward at Cut Nyak Dhien Regional Hospital in Meulaboh, Aceh last Monday. (Antara Photo/Syifa Yulinnas)

Hospitals Not Ready to Handle Surge in Covid-19 Patients: Task Force


SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

Jakarta. Indonesia would soon run out of hospital beds to handle Covid-19 patients in a severe and critical condition, presenting a disaster to happen should the country fail to rein in the spread of the pandemic in the next few weeks. 

"The hospitals are not ready," Wiku Adisasmito, the spokesman of the Covid-19 Handling Task Force, said in a virtual discussion with the Indonesian Democracy Study Group (KSDI) on Sunday.

The number of active cases increased by 1.6 percent daily in September, accelerating from 0.4 percent pace last month. At the current rate, Indonesia will see its active cases to double to 120,000 in the first week of November. 

The Health Ministry data on 7 Sep showed that the country only had half of its Covid-19 hospitals still available.   

Wiku said that with 57,796 cases today, the country's intensive care units (ICUs) were almost full, and patients had difficulty finding treatment rooms. Medical workers were overwhelmed, and doctors' kept dying from Covid-19. Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) said last week that 117 medical doctors have died from the disease since the pandemic began. 

"If this trend does not stop, there will be widespread fatigue among the medical workers," said Wiku, who is also the chairman of the Covid-19 Management Expert Council.

Indonesians must not rely on hospitals nor the medical workers as the frontlines in Covid-19 handling, he said. The hospital capacity would not cope with the spike in severe and critical patients.

"The community must be the front line for Covid-19 handling," said Wiku, urging the people to be more disciplined in wearing the mask, avoiding crowds, and washing hands regularly. 

University of Indonesia epidemiologist Iwan Ariawan, who also present in the discussion, said it seemed that keeping the distance between each other and avoiding crowds were the only preventive measures that showed some effectiveness in Indonesia today. 

After the large-scale social restriction (PSBB), the number of new cases had slowed down. But after the government ease the restrictions and allowed people to travel, the number spiked. 

Indonesians, Iwan said, had not disciplined enough to wear masks properly and seemed to neglect hand washing. Also, the government's effort to test, trace, and isolate Covid-19 patients were not quick enough to keep up with the pace of Covid-19 spread.  

Iwan said that the Health Ministry required tracing of a suspect's recent contacts would only start after a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) result confirmed that the suspect had the coronavirus. In Indonesia, the test result is typically available three days after the sample was taken from the patient.

"The implementation of washing hands, keeping distance, and wearing masks, as well as testing, tracing, and isolation, is still low. So, the measures have little impact on Covid-19 spread in the country," Iwan said.