President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has urged Indonesians not to seek medical treatment abroad. But reports show he may not practice what he preaches.
On Wednesday, Yudhoyono told wealthy Indonesians to follow his lead, saying he only sought medical treatment at domestic hospitals.
“Honestly, I’m not really happy if Indonesian people, mainly wealthy people or very rich people, go abroad for medical help,” he said in a meeting at the Health Ministry. “The ones that benefit are our neighboring countries.”
The president’s statement echoed something he said in July 2011.
“I myself, thank God, for nearly seven years as the Indonesian president, I always have medical checkups here,” he said at the opening celebrations of Mochtar Riady Comprehensive Cancer Center in Jakarta.
“Our quality [hospitals] and doctors are something to be proud of,” he said. “Many of our doctors are smart and recommended by other countries.”
But according to staff members at HSC Medical Center, Yudhoyono is a regular visitor at the hospital in Kuala Lumpur.
The hospital brags on its website that Indonesian patients routinely choose Malaysian hospitals over Singaporean ones, adding that even Yudhoyono comes in for regular checkups.
“Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is a regular customer. He comes for checkups,” Lim Yin Chow, a doctor at the hospital, said in a testimonial called “A Reputation for Success.”
Raymond Leong, a manager at the hospital, confirmed the president’s regular visits.
“He just came in for a checkup — that’s all,” Raymond told The Jakarta Globe. “That was his second visit actually.”
Yudhoyono wrote a glowing review of HSC Medical Center after a checkup on Feb. 14, 2005. He was in Kuala Lumpur to meet Malaysian Sultan Syed Sirajuddin Ibni Al-Marhum.
“I really enjoy having the opportunity to be checked by this fine medical center in Kuala Lumpur … [It is] a center of excellence in medical services,” the president wrote in a signed testimonial that was posted online.
Mardjo Soebiandono, a doctor who serves on the presidential doctor’s team, denied claims that Yudhoyono went overseas for treatment.
“It isn’t true,” Mardjo said. “We always treat him. In my term as a presidential doctor, he has never been treated in Malaysia.”
Mardjo said Yudhoyono always chose Gatot Subroto Military Hospital in Jakarta for treatment.
“It’s routine [to get a checkup] here, not abroad,” he said.
But if the president was offered a free checkup during a visit overseas, it would be impolite to refuse, he added.
“Probably he was offered a checkup — that might have happened,” Mardjo said. “He’s Javanese and must respect the offer, so he probably just felt reluctant to refuse. If I was the president and I was offered a medical checkup for free, I wouldn’t refuse.”