As Indonesia cases soar, medical workers bear the burden

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A medics inspects makeshift isolation rooms at Patriot Candrabhaga stadium prepared to become a quarantine facility for people showing symptoms of the COVID-19 amid the new coronavirus outbreak in Bekasi on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. While Indonesia has recorded more deaths from the coronavirus than any other Southeast Asian country, it also has seen by far the most fatalities among medical workers in the region, leading to concerns about the long-term impact on the nation's fragile healthcare system. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

JAKARTA – While Indonesia has recorded more deaths from the coronavirus than any other Southeast Asian country, it also has seen by far the most fatalities among medical workers in the region, leading to concerns about the long-term impact on the nation's fragile healthcare system.

The tribulations endured by Indonesian healthcare workers are similar to others globally: long working hours, hospitals filled to capacity and a lack of resources like personal protective equipment.

Indonesia's government has been able to provide PPE to healthcare workers after an initial shortage that saw doctors wearing plastic raincoats while working. But other issues remain in the country, where more than 200 medical workers, mostly doctors and nurses, have died from the virus.

According to Dr. Halik Malik, spokesperson for the Indonesian Medical Association, coronavirus and non-coronavirus patients are often treated in the same healthcare facilities, increasing workers’ potential exposure to the virus. Only workers who are treating known COVID-19 patients are provided virus testing for themselves, he said, noting that results are often delayed.

“We are worried that if positive cases in the community continue to increase, there will be many cases that cannot be handled properly,” Malik said.

Indonesia on Tuesday surpassed 200,000 cases of the coronavirus, the second-highest tally in Southeast Asia after the Philippines, which has reported more than 241,000 infections. In all of Asia, Indonesia's death toll of 8,230 is second only to India, which has had over 73,000 fatalities.

At least 213 healthcare workers have died from COVID-19 in Indonesia, including 107 doctors and 74 nurses, according to the Indonesian Medical Association.

The Philippines, which has reported more than 3,900 deaths overall, has seen 33 of its medical workers die from the virus, second-most in the region. The only other Southeast Asian country with more than 100 overall deaths is Malaysia, with 128.