Doctors and hospitals in Jakarta under mounting pressure as Covid-19 cases surge

A survey of 1,461 health workers nationwide found that 83 per cent of them had experienced burnouts.
A survey of 1,461 health workers nationwide found that 83 per cent of them had experienced burnouts.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA - Dr Galuh Chandra Kirana Sugianto has been very busy at a private hospital in Jakarta since August.

The specialist in internal medicine is taking care of up to 30 Covid-19 patients every single shift three days a week, and this on top of her duties at another two hospitals.

The number of patients, including those in intensive care, is the most she has ever had to handle.

"We face high risks each time we report for duty. Although we try to comply with the protocols, we won't know how we can contract the virus," Dr Galuh told The Straits Times.

The private hospital, which began accepting Covid-19 patients since April, has a capacity of some 130 beds but can only utilise up to 50 due to a lack of manpower. As demand picked up, the hospital expanded the number of ICU beds to ten this week, two more than before, although without any concurrent increase in staff.

“Many health workers, especially those having babies or toddlers and elderly parents, are reluctant to serve at hospitals designated for Covid-19 patients due to the significant risks,” said Dr Galuh, who has been staying apart from her family since being roped in to deal with the pandemic.

The grim situation is not unique to the private hospital where Dr Galuh works. It is one of 67 referral hospitals in Jakarta, a city of 10 million where the number of infections have shot up by around 1,000 a day.

Dr Erlina Burhan, a spokesman for Persahabatan General Hospital, which has 208 beds, including 16  beds in ICUs, said that the occupancy rate for non-ICU beds was higher than 70 percent. ICU beds were occupied all the time, resulting in a long queue for a place.

"We saw a decline in patients in April and May following the strict partial lockdown, but when it was eased, the number of patients climbed again," she said.

"I am worried about fatigue among our health workers. They really need rest. Otherwise, they fall sick," she added.

A survey of 1,461 health workers nationwide by the University of Indonesia's Faculty of Medicine found that 83 per cent of them had experienced burnouts. The Indonesian Medical Association (IDI) reported that 115 doctors had died of Covid-19.


For the past six months, Dr Pompini Agustina Sitompul, one of six pulmonologists at the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital, another major facility treating Covid-19 patients, has worked seven days a week and made herself available round the clock, sometimes picking up emergency calls in the middle of the night.

“Physically we are exhausted, but we should keep our spirits up,” she said.

On Saturday (Sept 12), Jakarta reported 1,205 new Covid-19 cases and 18 more deaths. Indonesia has recorded 214,746 confirmed Covid-19 cases, of which 52,840 were from Jakarta. The number of deaths totalled 8,650 nationwide with 1,386 reported in Jakarta alone as of Saturday.

Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan on Wednesday announced the re-imposition of strict social restrictions from Monday (Sept 14) to curb the spread of Covid-19, warning that the city's hospitals would reach its full capacity by Sept 17 without intervention.

Figures provided by the city administration early last week showed that the occupancy rate of isolation rooms at the 67 referral hospitals had reached 77 per cent, and that for ICUs had hit 83 per cent.

The administration plans to expand capacity by around 20 per cent by pressing more private hospitals to help deal with the surge in cases. This will raise the number of isolation beds to 4,807 from 4,053.

But Mr Anies said that this expansion alone would not alleviate the situation.

"If it were not coupled with strict efforts to curb the spread of the virus, we would reach this new capacity by the second week of October," he said.


Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan on Saturday disputed the Jakarta administration's data, saying the overall occupancy rate of hospitals in Jakarta was around 60 per cent, which he described as "a safe level".