President Joko Widodo, right, and State-Owned Enterprises Minister Erick Thohir visit a makeshift hospital at the former Asian Games Athletes' Village in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, on Monday. The facility is designated for Covid-19 patients. (Antara Photo/Hafidz Mubarak)

Indonesia Needs More and Better Health Facilities to Counter Coronavirus Epidemic: Ombudsman


APRIL 02, 2020

Jakarta. Having only 132 referral hospitals to treat Covid-19 patients across the country is not enough to counter the coronavirus pandemic, the Indonesian Ombudsman announced on Wednesday.

Ombudsman member Alamsyah Saragih said the government must balance its priorities between the health, social security and economic sectors.

"The data we have so far tell us the hospitals are not ready for a full-blown pandemic," Alamsyah said in a teleconference in Jakarta on Wednesday.

He said the hospitals' lack of preparation is in stark contrast to the rapid spread of the pandemic in nearly all regions of the country and the rapid spike in the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases

According to the Ombudsman, the government must take immediate action to improve health facilities and infrastructures to treat Covid-19 patients.

"We need more than economic programs to counter the impact of the epidemic. We can't neglect health and social security," Alamsyah said.

The Ombudsman said the government must find more medical personnel and volunteers to man its Covid-19 hospitals. 

Since the number of Covid-19 cases continues to spike, real-time and integrated collection system, verification system and data authorization system between the central government and regional governments are needed.

"The central government must provide updated information on medical equipment production and distribution to the regional governments and the public. Demand for them will skyrocket as we see more cases of Covid-19," Alamsyah said.   

He warned the government might find it difficult to get accurate data on poor and vulnerable families in order to supply them with emergency aid during the pandemic.

"They often have different or multiple addresses since most of them work in the informal sector in big cities. The government must make sure all of them can get the emergency aid," Alamsyah said.

Civil Emergency Not the Right Antidote

The government should never declare a civil emergency for Covid-19 since it contradicts the principles of social control and disaster management during a pandemic, Alamsyah also said.

"We already have the Health Quarantine Law, the National Police Law, the Criminal Code and the Disaster Management Law. They could be used to carry out large-scale social distancing," he said.

Alamsyah said the Ombudsman would monitor the implementation of the large-scale social distancing ordered by President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo earlier this week.  

"We also advise the government to keep their options open if regional leaders say they need to implement a local quarantine. The central government and regional governments have to prepare for that option as well," Alamsyah said.