Jakarta – Indonesia is losing its doctors and nurses to the Covid-19 pandemic at a significantly faster rate than other countries in the world, further undermining the country's overstretched healthcare system.
About 92 health workers died for every 100,000 Covid-19 cases identified in Indonesia, according to the Jakarta Globe calculation based on data on Sep. 12. That is the fourth-highest fatality rate for health workers across the world after Mexico, Egypt, and the United Kingdom, according to the latest available data collected by Amnesty International and Our World in Data.
Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI), the country's medical doctor organization, reported 115 doctors have lost their lives to the Covid-19 disease by Saturday since the pandemic began in March. At least 82 nurses have also died from Covid-19 during the period, data from a volunteer group Lapor Covid-19 showed.
"Certainly, the loss of doctors will result in the decline of healthcare service quality for Indonesian people," Mohammad Adib Khumaidi, the deputy chairman of IDI's Executive Board deputy chairman, said as quoted by Kompas.com news website.
Even before the pandemic hits, Indonesia does not have enough doctors and nurses to serve more than 270 million population. The country only had 0.2 general practitioners and 1.3 nurses for every 1,000 people in 2019, among the lowest rate in the Southeast Asia region, data from the Health Ministry showed.
Indonesia has reported a total of 218,382 confirmed cases as of Sunday, growing at an average 1.4 percent per day in the past week. At the current rate, the number of total Covid-19 cases in Indonesia would double to 400,000 by October.
"The death rate among health workers has risen significantly," Usman Hamid, the executive director of Amnesty International Indonesia, said in a statement last week.
"In July, when Amnesty International released the global report on health care and essential workers, a total of 89 health workers had died of the disease. The number has doubled since then," Usman said.
Amnesty International noted Indonesian hospitals tended to cover up Covid-19 cases at their facilities. Medical workers and staff were often left without an effective complaint mechanism to channel their concerns about their personal safety during this pandemic, Amnesty International said.
"An investigation into the deaths of health workers is urgently needed, as are strong and consistent measures to protect the rights of all medical staff," Usman said.
"This includes giving them access to testing, protective equipment, adequate sick pay, and a secure way to raise complaints so they can protect themselves and their patients. Their safety is extremely important in order to uphold their rights and for the sake of public health," Usman said.
Amnesty International also urged the government to provide free polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for health workers working at the front lines in order to contain the coronavirus transmission within health facilities.