JAKARTA, Indonesia – With her aunt to breathe at home from a COVID-19 infection, 17-year-old Ridho Milhasan took matters into her own hands on Wednesday and went to find her some oxygen.
After his uncle searched for an empty tank from a friend, Milhasson found an oxygen filling station in South Jakarta, waiting in a long line of others in dire need, and three hours later the supplies he needed. emerged victorious with
“My aunt badly needed this oxygen,” he said before tying the oxygen container to his little scooter. “This pandemic is getting worse.”
In Milhasan’s case, there was no other option – his uncle tried to take his aunt to several hospitals in Jakarta after she tested positive for COVID-19, but was refused and was given an oxygen tank at home. Asked to find and help him.
“Covid-19 patients have had difficulty getting proper medical services. Now they have to find their own oxygen,” Milhasson said.
In the past two weeks, the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Indonesia has more than doubled from 4.72 new cases per 100,000 people on June 22 to 9.85 on July 6. Over the same period, the daily death toll per 100,000 people has dropped from 0.11 to 0.20 on the 7-day rolling average.
Despite new lockdown measures and promises from the government to provide more hospital beds and supplies, that trend shows no sign of slowing.
“This is our critical period during the next two weeks,” Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan, the government minister in charge of Indonesia’s pandemic response, told reporters on Tuesday. He resolved to move swiftly to provide more hospital beds, health equipment and oxygen.
In the capital, daily burials have increased 10 times since May, said Nagbila Salama, head of surveillance and vaccination at the Jakarta health office. He said that out of 369 COVID-19 deaths reported in Jakarta on Saturday, 45 people died at home.
“We are concerned that this is the tip of the iceberg,” said LaporCOVID-19, an independent virus data group that tracks deaths at home, noting that many remain unreported. “This must be addressed immediately to prevent more people from dying outside health facilities.”
Overall, Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous country, has reported nearly 2.4 million infections and nearly 63,000 deaths from COVID-19. Those figures are widely believed to be a huge undercount due to low testing and poor tracing measures.
The health care system is struggling to deal with ever-increasing numbers, with even patients lucky enough to get hospital beds not guaranteed oxygen.
At least 33 patients with severe coronavirus infection died over the weekend after a Yogyakarta hospital ran out of central supplies of liquid medical oxygen.
Indonesia’s Hospital Association said the problem was widespread, with many hospitals’ oxygen supplies running empty overnight before morning supplies.
“We need the government’s guarantee that the distribution of medical oxygen can reach hospitals as needed and on time,” said association general secretary Lia Partkusuma.
In Java, Indonesia’s most populous island, hospitals began setting up tents as temporary intensive care units in mid-June, and many patients waited several days before being admitted. Oxygen tanks were rolled out on the sidewalk for those lucky, while others were told they’d have to find their own.
Health Minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin told a parliamentary commission overseeing health issues on Monday that his ministry had set up a special unit to deal with oxygen supplies amid a dramatic increase in cases on the islands of Java and Bali.
“We have identified oxygen needs in each hospital, and set up an oxygen task force in each province,” Sadikin said in a virtual hearing with lawmakers.
Sadikin said the industry ministry has been asked to devote 90% of oxygen production to medical oxygen, up from the current 25%, where the rest is produced for industrial purposes. According to government data, the daily requirement of COVID-19 patients is 1,928 tonnes per day, while the total available production capacity of the country is 2,262 tonnes per day.
He said the lack of oxygen in many areas was largely due to not meeting the skyrocketing demand, and promised the government “all efforts to correct this and speed up delivery to areas with high virus infection cases.” do.”
Associated Press writer Edna Tarigan and photographer Achmad Ibrahim contributed to this report.