Nurses tend to patients at Catholic-run Dian Harapan Hospital in Jayapura. (Photo by Veni Mahuze/ucanews.com)
A shortage of health facilities and professional health workers remains a long-standing problem in Indonesia’s Papua province despite the increasing clamor for better and more affordable services.
Amid the shortfall, church-run hospitals and clinics — such as Dian Harapan Hospital in Jayapura — have become vital for many Papuans who would otherwise slip through gaping holes in the region’s health care net.
State-run institutions have often been criticized for pandering to those with money and neglecting those without in a region where long journeys just to reach an inadequate hospital result in the deaths of many patients.
Building on a clinic originally run by Catholics, including Dutch Franciscan missionary Jan van der Horst and the German bishops’ development agency Misereor, Dian Harapan Hospital was founded by Jayapura Diocese 24 years ago.
Since then it has established a reputation for responding to the needs of the poor, particularly those living in remote areas.
From an initial 52 beds, it now has 150 and it became a referral hospital for several districts in Papua, especially Lanny Jaya, an isolated area in the central mountainous region of Papua.
Riwan Wenda, 18, who comes from Lanny Jaya district, says he was admitted to the hospital on April 29 and remained there for almost three weeks after being diagnosed with water on his brain.
He said that despite not being able to pay for his treatment, he was treated well by staff who demonstrated a genuine desire to ensure he made a full recovery. "Meals and medicines were as regular as clockwork. I was made to feel very comfortable,” he told ucanews.com.
Ekira Weya, also from Lanny Jaya, said she received good treatment for a serious bowel condition at the hospital after surviving a long journey to get there. She had to travel three hours overland before a one-hour flight to Jayapura. “Fortunately, I received good treatment here.”
Wenda and Weya consider themselves among the lucky ones.
The scarcity of health facilities and the poor quality of care where there are facilities discourages people from have their health monitored, and even ordinary diseases such as diarrhea and minor respiratory problems can be fatal.
However, Dian Harapan Hospital has looked to buck that trend and has earned the backing of local officials who put the hospital at the top of the list when people need urgent care.
Tiffany Kawengian, a Lanny Jaya district official, said patients with serious problems are sent straight to Dian Harapan Hospital.
“We have cooperated with the hospital since last year because it has decent facilities and shows real dedication to patients,” she said. “The costs are shouldered by the local government. The patients are treated well and return home healthy.”
Every day more than 50 people are treated in Dian Harapan Hospital’s ophthalmology department in Jayapura. (Photo by Veni Mahuze/ucanews.com)
Hospital director Dr. Ance M. Situmorang said that for over two decades the hospital has remained faithful to the Church’s mission to serve the poor.
“Our first priority is to help these people, but it does not mean we reject the affluent,” she said, adding that Dian Harapan is very much a community hospital.
She said its ability to provide more effective services has been enhanced by government health insurance schemes for citizens that reimburse treatment costs.
Situmorang said at least 200 patients are treated daily at the hospital, rich or poor, and plans are afoot to upgrade its facilities.
"We are well on the way to replacing outdated facilities, such as adding state-of-the-art radiology equipment,” she said.
It is also seeking to expand its ophthalmology department.
According to Situmorang, improvements in facilities have not only resulted in better treatments but also made diagnosing problems easier.
More specialized services such as treating head and neck ailments have led to more and more Papuans being diagnosed with such problems, she said.
Papuan Health Department chief Dr. Aloysius Giyai said the provincial government is trying to help Papuans by giving subsidies to hospitals, including those managed by the Church.
This effort has been inspired to a certain degree by the way Dian Harapan Hospital has gone about trying to serve communities, especially the poorest ones, he said. “It has played a significant role in helping Papuans, and the government has paid attention to it.”
Jayapura mayor Benhur Tomi Mano said the city is grateful to the Church for building a hospital that has offered such an outstanding service to people.
The provincial capital has 13 hospitals, but when people have serious health problems they are referred to Dian Harapan, he said.