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Indonesian nuns do their bit amid Covid-19 surge

Sisters offer their formation house as an isolation center to ease pressure on overstretched hospitals

Indonesian nuns do their bit amid Covid-19 surge

Volunteers who will work at the Syantikara Shelter owned by the Sisters of Charity of St. Charles Borromeo in Yogyakarta are briefed by a doctor. (Photo supplied)

Indonesian nuns are to provide free shelter for Covid-19 patients amid concerns about health facilities struggling to treat an increasing number of patients in a recent surge that has seen the country record the highest death rate in the world.

The Sisters of Charity of St. Charles Borromeo have converted their formation house in the Yogyakarta Special Region’s Sleman district into a shelter that will start taking patients on Aug. 1.

Sister Birgitta Diah Juliati, the shelter’s secretary, said the move was in response to Semarang Archdiocese's call for religious congregations to take an active part in responding to the worsening Covid-19 crisis.

“The purpose of this shelter is to reduce the burden on hospitals and the state budget. The priority is for health workers who need an independent isolation place and the surrounding community who have limited facilities for self-isolation at home and who are experiencing economic difficulties," she said.

Called the Syantikara Shelter, it can accommodate 164 people in 82 rooms. Each room is equipped with bathroom facilities, an area for washing and drying clothes and independent health monitoring equipment.

Sister Juliati said 180 volunteers from various interfaith groups and Islamic and Catholic educational institutions in Yogyakarta will help run it.

If there is a decline in a patient's condition while undergoing self-isolation at the shelter, they will be referred to a Covid-19 referral hospital for further treatment

"They include doctors, nurses and volunteers for cleaning, administration, logistics, nutrition and other services," she told UCA News on July 21.

Dr. Triputro Nugroho, who will head up treatment at the shelter, hopes it can help answer the need for safe isolation places and offer better treatment for asymptomatic patients and those with mild symptoms.

"If there is a decline in a patient's condition while undergoing self-isolation at the shelter, they will be referred to a Covid-19 referral hospital for further treatment," he said.

Archbishop Robertus Rubiyatmoko of Semarang said it will be the first shelter belonging to a religious congregation that will open to the public.

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"The shelter is very ready because it is supported by medical personnel, volunteers, the surrounding community and local government," he told UCA News.

He said he was encouraging priests and religious in his archdiocese to find ways to ease burdens and pain caused by the Covid-19 crisis, which has worsened dramatically since May with a surge in cases that has overwhelmed hospitals despite the number of beds having been increased.

In Yogyakarta alone, the bed occupancy rate for non-critical patients had reached 90.21 percent and 88.8 percent for critical patients, according to government spokesman Ditya Nanaryo Aji.

“This is exacerbated by the increasing difficulty in obtaining oxygen cylinders, other medical equipment and medicines. As a result, many patients are dying," Archbishop Rubiyatmoko said.

In this way, we show and manifest the face of God's mercy and continue the struggle of Jesus who came into the world to seek and save those in distress

The prelate said Catholics should be involved in overcoming these problems through interfaith cooperation.

"In this way, we show and manifest the face of God's mercy and continue the struggle of Jesus who came into the world to seek and save those in distress," he said.

As of July 22, Indonesia had recorded 2.95 million cases with 76,200 deaths. The number of new infections currently stands at over 45,000 each day, with a daily death toll of more than 1,000, more than any other country in the world.

In a desperate effort to curb cases, President Joko Widodo has extended an emergency lockdown in Java and Bali until July 25, while governments in other regions have taken similar measures.

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