Dina Manafe & Nur Yasmin, Jakarta – The Health Ministry has released the results of its study into the cause of death of over 500 election officials since election day on April 17. The ministry has inspected a total of 15 provinces until Saturday and released a list containing 13 medical conditions that reportedly claimed the lives of the election officials.
Several hundred more were admitted to hospital due to fatigue and stress-related illness. Most of them worked non-stop for 24 hours on election day since by law the vote count at each polling station has to be completed on the same day when the votes are cast.
They were also very poorly paid. Each part-time official received Rp 500,000 ($36) before tax, or Rp 75 (less than one US cent) per ballot paper that they counted.
The secretary general of the ministry, Drg. Oscar Primadi, said most of the officials who died were between 50 and 59 years of age. These are the 13 medical conditions mentioned in the ministry's list:
- Myocardial infarction or heart attack. This condition occurs when blood flow to the heart or the coronary arteries (blood vessels to the heart) is blocked, causing tissue damage that is life-threatening.
- Heart failure. A medical condition where the heart fails to pump enough blood to meet the body's metabolic needs. Delayed treatment will cause death within minutes.
- Hepatic coma. In medical terms known as hepatic encephalopathy, it is the condition of a person who experiences personality changes or neuropsychiatric disorders due to liver dysfunction, such as liver failure or liver cirrhosis. Symptoms of this disease include personality changes and decreased consciousness.
- Stroke. This condition occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted or reduced due to a blockage (ischemic stroke) or rupture of a blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke). Without blood, the brain cannot get oxygen and nutrients, thus killing the cells in the brain area.
- Respiratory failure or Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). This is a lung problem that occurs when fluid accumulates in the lungs. This causes respiratory failure and low oxygen levels in the blood. ARDS is life-threatening because important organs like the brain and kidneys will not get enough oxygen. About 40 percent or 4 out of 10 people affected by ARDS cannot survive.
- Hypertension emergencies. Conditions in which blood pressure rises too high, and occurs suddenly. This emergency condition of hypertension causes organ damage and even death. This condition requires immediate treatment to reduce blood pressure in minutes or hours.
- Meningitis. An infection that causes inflammation of the membranes around the brain and spinal cord (meninges).
- Sepsis. A life-threatening complication due to infection. It will cause blood pressure to drop dramatically and damage many organs.
The other illnesses are asthma, kidney failure, diabetes mellitus, tuberculosis and multi-organ failure.
Until today, 22 election officials have died in Jakarta, 131 in West Java, 44 in Central Java, 60 in East Java, 16 in Banten, 7 in Bengkulu, 3 in Riau Islands, 2 in Bali, 8 in South Kalimantan, 3 in Central Kalimantan, 7 in East Kalimantan, 6 in Southeast Sulawesi, 66 in South Kalimantan and 2 in North Sulawesi.
Oscar said in the future, election officials have to be tested to make sure they are in good health. Their working condition also has to be improved. They need a much bigger space to count the votes. They should not smoke or be exposed to cigarette smoke. Their working hours also have to be managed better and they should get enough breaks between shifts.
This year Indonesia held the biggest and most complex single-day elections in the world, with 192 million voters flocking into 810,000 polling stations across 34 provinces and overseas.
The election officials are currently racing with time to finish the official count before May 22 when the results must be announced to the public.