Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan
Poor medical services and equipment lead some 100 Medan residents to leave North Sumatra each day to seek health treatment overseas, mostly in Malaysia and Singapore.
Chairman of the Medan chapter of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI), Nur Rasyid Lubis, said it has become a trend lately for Medan residents to seek medical treatment abroad.
Local doctors, he said, are capable of handling all the illnesses but are hampered by the lack of modern equipment and an effective medical system.
"We cannot blame people for seeking treatment overseas. This is understandable because they use state-of-the-art medical equipment overseas. Patients feel comfortable being examined with such equipment," Rasyid told The Jakarta Post.
Chairman of the North Sumatra Surgeons Association, Ronald Sihotang, said equipment used by doctors in the country lagged far behind compared to Malaysia and Singapore.
Both neighboring countries, said Ronald, had acquired the latest equipment in line with the development of medical technology.
"Malaysia and Singapore have the latest version of CT Scan and MRI equipment, while similar equipment in Indonesia is already outdated," said Ronald.
Ronald said almost all hospitals in Malaysia and Singapore were equipped with modern equipment, while in Indonesia CT Scan and MRI machines were only available in provincial level hospitals.
Rasyid cited other factors like quick and cheap services as other benefits of visiting overseas medical facilities. According to Rasyid, no hospitals in Indonesia offer quick and reasonably priced services to patients.
He said the heavy work loads of some doctors in Indonesia -- many work in both state and private hospitals -- meant they were less able to concentrate and thus slower in handling patients.
"State-appointed doctors should not moonlight in private hospitals, because they cannot provide optimum services due to fatigue. This is what patients have been complaining about," said Rasyid.
He added the number of doctors in Medan was sufficient.
"There are 2,000 doctors in Medan, 500 of whom are specialists. But most of them work in state as well as private hospitals."
Rasyid urged the government to draw up a new regulation aimed at curbing doctors from having double jobs, so they could concentrate better on treating patients.
He cited an example in Malaysia where doctors are supervised by the government.
"The Indonesian government should oversee doctors working in state and private hospitals, but it should go together with the improvement of doctors' welfare."