|A shortage of doctors in remote areas will hamper the implementation of the national healthcare program, which is slated to commence on Jan. 1 next year, an official says.
Tono Rustiano, planning and development director of state-owned health insurance firm PT Askes, said a dearth of doctors in small and remote areas, especially in Ende regency and Maumere subdistrict in East Nusa Tenggara, would prevent the country from attaining its goal of equal access to healthcare.
“There is only a small number of general practitioners in remote areas, not to mention specialists. Most doctors choose to work in Java. How will residents of remote areas enjoy access to healthcare when there are no doctors?” Tono said.
Preliminary data from a survey conducted by the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) shows that of the 110,000 doctors working throughout the archipelago, 60 percent of them are located in Java.
“People’s welfare is one of the indicators of an independent nation, and health reflects welfare. Because of the uneven distribution of doctors, not all people have access to healthcare, especially those who have long-term illnesses,” Tono said.
IDI chairman Zaenal Abidin mentioned the lack of adequate healthcare facilities and low salaries for doctors working in remote regions as probable reasons for the uneven distribution of doctors. “The first variable that might cause this trend is the fact that hospitals, clinics and community health centers with adequate facilities tend to be concentrated in Jakarta. This happens because most capitalists who finance healthcare facilities live in Java, especially Jakarta,” Zaenal said.
“The second variable is salary. The salaries of doctors working in remote areas are only a little above the regional minimum wage, which on average amounts to Rp1.2 million [US$122.77],” Zaenal said.
“Facing these problems, fewer doctors choose to work in small, isolated regions,” Zaenal added.
Tono said PT Askes would focus on this issue as it would be the state healthcare program executor, in line with Law No. 24/2011.
In order to overcome the uneven distribution of doctors, IDI is carrying out a survey on the spread of doctors.
“We will map out the dispersion of doctors to the subdistrict level of every region. I hope the survey will be finished within two months. With the survey results at hand, we will be able to create a program to distribute doctors evenly throughout Indonesia,” Zaenal said.
Nova Riyanti Yusuf, a member of House of Representatives Commission VIII on health, said it would be difficult to expect doctors to work in small regions if the government did not increase their salaries.
“Provincial governments should raise the minimum standard of doctors’ salaries. Law No. 36/2009 stipulates that 10 percent of the regional budget should be allocated for healthcare purposes,” Nova said. (ogi)