“If you get bitten by a snake [in Ambon], I don’t think you’re going to live.”
Yulian Huningkor, interning doctor at the CH. M. TIAHAHU Puskesmas, gave this example when discussing the limitations of the Ambonese healthcare system.
Being a small island almost 4,000km from the capital, the movement of medical supplies can only occur in bulk via air or sea. It is slow, expensive, and will not occur unless there is a large demand for it. Yulian states that the hospitals and medical clinics do not want to risk finances purchasing large quantities of specialised medicines (or anti venom), which are likely to expire before they are even used.
Yulian’s college education in Jakarta was based around Western medical practices… but did not prepare him for the shocking reality of the Ambonese community health clinics.
I had the chance to visit the Kayu Putih Puskesmas, located in the mountain village of Soya. The building and equipment were in dire need of refurbishment; it was poorly lit and didn’t exude the pristine and reliable atmosphere I’m used to in Australian health services.
The image of the clinic was at the forefront of my mind at the Mayor’s dinner party, in the aggressive display of wealth in the lavish government house.
At this comparison, Yulian admitted that distance isn’t the only challenge affecting healthcare quality.
“The funding usually goes to something else that’s important according to the government… but personally, I don’t know what’s more important than a human’s health.”
Not only this, but “the corruption here has been a very chronic problem.”
Indonesia sits in the top 100 most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (Ibbetson 2019), squandering funding that could be used towards improving public health (Juwita 2017).
I wondered if anybody had ever fought the poison in the health system, but Yulian explained “only a few people that understand the problem want to fight… but their aspirations are often neglected by the governments.” The lack of information and education also play a part in how many people are aware of the issues, let alone aware of how to combat it.
But Yulian is quite optimistic for Indonesia’s future.
“The development sure can take a while… But it will happen… so in the meantime I will just have to do whatever is necessary… any small action I do for these people here really has a very big impact on their lives.”
In a country snaked by its own government, in short supply of anti venom, it’s the small actions of individuals like Yulian that make the long wait bearable.
Ibbetson, R. 2019, ‘The world’s worst corrupt countries revealed’, Daily Mail Australia, 29 January, viewed 30 January 2019, <https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6643529/Somalia-named-worlds-corrupt-country-Denmark-one-watch.html?ito=social-facebook>.
Juwita, R. 2017, ‘Health sector corruption as the archenemy of universal health care in Indonesia’, Mimbar Hukum, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 162-175.