Indonesians have no protection against hospitals and other health care providers in the event of malpractice, one of the country’s most well-known health activists said on Wednesday.
“What kind of a health system do we have here?” former Indonesian Doctors Association chairman Kartono Muhamad said, in an attack on lawmakers for dragging their feet for the past seven years on a health care bill.
“I say we have no system at all. It’s a free market,” said Kartono, who is now the chairman of the Indonesia Health Coalition.
He told a discussion organized by the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club that patients were at the mercy of health authorities because there were no regulations on how hospitals should be run.
Kartono said it was difficult for a patient to obtain redress, let alone justice, if they received poor treatment at the hands of hospitals or doctors.
Kartono added that some doctors were very protective of their fellow doctors and tended to remain silent when questioned about alleged malpractice.
Ajriani Munthe Salak, from the Legal Aid Institute for Health (LBH Kesehatan), said her organization had dealt with nearly 500 malpractice cases between 1999 and 2008. “This is just the tip of the iceberg because a lot more people choose to remain silent,” she said.
Ajriani said most of the cases reported to LBH Kesehatan that were later the subject of legal proceedings never reached a verdict because the amount of time it took for the cases to make their way through the court system discouraged people from following through.
“Most cases fail to reach a conclusion after more than two years and eventually the patients get frustrated and quit because they are emotionally and financially exhausted,” she said.
Ajriani said this would not happen if the House of Representatives had endorsed the health care bill that has been under discussion since 2002.
“While waiting for the House to endorse the health law, poor patients are left unprotected and have no health care,” she said.
Mariani Baramuli Akib, a Golkar Party lawmaker, said the House’s Commission IX, which oversees health and welfare, was again working on the health care bill and expected it to be passed during the current legislative term, which ends in October.
Mariani said the bill’s endorsement was postponed because the commission was having difficulty coming up with an acceptable definition of malpractice.
“It takes three weeks to arrange one sentence in a law. We’re really having a hard time defining the term malpractice,” she said. “Ethical codes always take time.”