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Catholic hospital lifts medical standards in Papua

JAYAPURA (UCAN): Church-run hospitals and clinics, such as Dian Harapan Hospital in Jayapura, in Indonesia’s Papua province, have become vital for many who would otherwise slip through gaping holes in the region’s health care net. A shortage of health facilities and professional health workers remains a long-standing problem despite the increasing clamour for better and more affordable services.
State-run institutions have often been criticised for pandering to the haves and neglecting the have-nots in an area where the long journeys just to reach an inadequate hospital result in the deaths of many patients.
Building on a clinic originally run by Catholics, including Dutch Franciscan Father Jan van der Horst and the German bishops’ development agency, Misereor, the Dian Harapan Hospital was founded by the Diocese of Jayapura 24 years ago.
Since then, it has established a reputation for responding to the needs of the poor, particularly those living in remote areas.
From an initial 52 beds, it now has 150 and it became a referral hospital for several districts in Papua, especially Lanny Jaya, an isolated area in the central mountainous region of Papua.
Eighteen-year-old Riwan Wenda, who is from Lanny Jaya, says he was admitted to the hospital on April 29 and remained there for almost three weeks after being diagnosed with water on his brain.
Despite not being able to pay for his treatment, he was treated well by staff who demonstrated a genuine desire to ensure he made a full recovery. “Meals and medicines were as regular as clockwork. I was made to feel very comfortable,” he said.
Ekira Weya, also from Lanny Jaya, had to travel three hours overland before a one-hour flight to Jayapura. “Fortunately, I received good treatment here,” she said.
Wenda and Weya consider themselves among the lucky ones.
The scarcity of health care facilities and the poor quality of care where they exist discourages people from have their health monitored. Even treatable illnesses such diarrhea and minor respiratory problems can be fatal.
However, Dian Harapan Hospital has looked to buck that trend and has earned the backing of local officials who put the hospital at the top of the list when people need urgent care.
Hospital director, Dr. Ance M. Situmorang, said that for over two decades the hospital has remained faithful to the Church’s mission to serve the poor.
“Our first priority is to help these people, but it does not mean we reject the affluent,” she said, adding that Dian Harapan is very much a community hospital.
She said its ability to provide more effective services has been enhanced by government health insurance schemes for citizens that reimburse treatment costs.
Situmorang said at least 200 patients are treated daily at the hospital, rich or poor, and plans are afoot to upgrade its facilities.
“We are well on the way to replacing outdated facilities, such as adding state-of-the-art radiology equipment,” she said.
It is also seeking to expand its ophthalmology department.
According to Situmorang, improvements in facilities have not only resulted in better treatments but also made diagnosing problems easier.
Papuan Health Department chief, Dr. Aloysius Giyai, said the provincial government is trying to help Papuans by giving subsidies to hospitals, including those managed by the Church.
He said that the Dian Harapan Hospital “has played a significant role in helping Papuans and the government has paid attention to it.”
Jayapura mayor, Benhur Tomi Mano, said the city is grateful to the Church for building a hospital that has offered such an outstanding service to people.
He said that the provincial capital has 13 hospitals, but when people have serious health problems they are referred to Dian Harapan.

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