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Indonesian Health Care Workers Bear the Burden of New COVID-19 Wave

As the current COVID-19 surge infects and kills health care workers across Indonesia, Project HOPE prepares the country’s health workforce to cope with their harrowing experiences on the frontline.

Washington, DC (June 16, 2021) — Indonesia’s weekly average of new COVID-19 cases has more than doubled over the last month, totaling over 58,000 new cases each week. Hospitals are nearing full capacity across Indonesia as the Delta variant spreads, prompting a surge in COVID-19 cases and deaths amongst health care workers. As they risk their lives on the frontline of this pandemic, health care workers have suffered immense physical and mental health tolls associated with this ongoing global health emergency.  

Between 700 and 900 Indonesian health care workers have died since the first confirmed COVID-19 case in Indonesia in March 2020. Since the last week of May 2021, Project HOPE has received consistent reports of more COVID-19 infections and deaths among health care workers from Kudus and Bangkalan districts. 

Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE), low awareness to virus transmission at health facilities, and poor practice in the use of PPE, handwashing and medical masks are among the reported causes of direct infection. 

More than 80 percent of health care workers in Indonesia report moderate levels of physical and mental exhaustion or burnout due to COVID-19. Within our program, over 40% report that they need mental health support. After just one month of treating COVID-19 patients, Indonesian health care workers are over five times more likely to experience depression, nearly two times more likely to experience anxiety and four times more likely to experience burnout. 

Project HOPE’s Executive Director for Indonesia, Edhie Rahmat, issued the following on-the-ground statements:  

“The current uptick in health care worker cases and deaths started three weeks after the celebration of the Islamic holiday, Eid al Fitr. Unsurprisingly, we saw a rocketing number of COVID-19 cases in several regions.  

“In Kudus, a district in northern Central Java region, the number of COVID-19 patients has exceeded the capacity of hospital beds. So far, 32 bus trips have been prepared. They are evacuating over 100 patients a day with confirmed COVID-19 cases, sending them to the newly-established COVID-19 hospital, 150 kilometers away from the district. 

“Similarly, in Bangkalan district in Madura Island, East Java region, hundreds of COVID-19 cases are being deferred to hospitals in Surabaya, the second largest city in Indonesia, due to a lack of facilities, equipment and supplies, including hospital beds, intensive care units, ventilators, as well as limited health care workers on the island.  

“Greater Bandung city, Pontianak and other regions have reported a nearly 100% increase of COVID-19 cases compared to previous months. They have decided to implement a strict limitation of social interaction between villages and restrict inter-city travels.” 

Yogi Mahendra, Project HOPE’s emergency response specialist for Southeast Asia: 

“Most health care workers in Indonesia do not have the experience to deal with long-term crisis situations like this.  

“What often happens is health workers feel anxiety due to work pressures, including excessive work hours, internal conflicts and more. When you couple that with high expectations from patients and family — especially when a situation does not go well — it will be a burden that will be carried for a long time.”  

Project HOPE urges a continued focus on the physical and mental health of health care workers. Project HOPE staff in Indonesia are working with KUN Humanity System+ to help health care workers cope with the pandemic through free mental health and resiliency trainings done openly and in groups — an important first step to normalize a support system that is too often overlooked in clinical settings. Infection prevention and control (IPC) measures to reduce infection transmission are also being addressed through widespread COVID-19 response and preparedness trainings and IPC assessments of targeted hospitals. 

Project HOPE In Indonesia: 

  • Project HOPE is continuously working to expand capacity of health care workers to understand, respond, treat and protect against COVID-19. Through translation to the local language and a cascade training approach, we have reached over 50,000 health care workers with COVID-19 Response and Preparedness Trainings. 
  • Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) assessments and programs have been implemented in 25 hospitals across seven regions – West Sumatera, West Java, Yogyakarta, Central Java, West Kalimantan, Maluku and Papua. 
  • Over 30,000 pieces of PPE have been distributed. 

About Project HOPE 

With the mission to place power in the hands of local health workers to save lives around the world, Project HOPE is a global health and humanitarian organization operating in more than 25 countries. Founded in 1958, we work side-by-side with local health systems to improve health and support community resilience. We work at the epicenter of today’s greatest health challenges, including infectious and chronic diseases; disasters and health crises; maternal, neonatal and child health; pandemic preparedness and response; mental health for health workers; and the policies that impact how health care is delivered. For more information, visit www.ProjectHOPE.org and follow us on Twitter @ProjectHOPEorg.   


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