Free healthcare in Mimika a work in progress, says government

Markus Makur , The Jakarta Post, Timika

While the Mimika regency administration initially planned to provide free healthcare for all residents, the program has only been put into practice at community health centers (puskesmas) in 12 districts. “So far, the free healthcare program is unavailable at regency hospitals because of their high operating, infrastructure and facilities costs,” Mimika Regency Hospital director Dr. Fransiscus Tio said in a dialog with Mimika  Deputy Regent Abdul Muis at a recent free healthcare campaign in Mimika, Papua.

The regency administration should have been thorough with its free healthcare program in Mimika, Tio said. A medical worker at Kampung Kwamki Lama Puskesmas, Dr. Moses Untung, said the program had been embodied in the Mimika regency administration’s vision and mission and would be implemented gradually.

The Kwamki Lama auxiliary Puskesmas, serving seven tribal communities, was not collecting fees from patients, but faced difficulties buying medicine and medical facilities, Moses said. He suggested Mimika regency administration provide health insurance to residents so they could get treatment at hospitals and clinics, and the government would cover the costs.

Currently 60 percent of residents in Timika city use private clinics, so the free healthcare program should also involve the private sector, Moses said. A number of medical workers from remote areas in Mimika have complained about inadequate supporting facilities including limited manpower at clinics. Atuka Puskesmas, for example, lacked chairs and tables.

Mimika regency administration should conduct a thorough assessment of the program, Moses said. A number of clinics were providing free healthcare but faced difficulties, such as in the distribution of medicine and other facilities, which was still very slow. They had to use their own funds because the government only reimbursed medical bills at the end of the year.

Deputy Regent Muis said Mimika regency administration remained positive in implementing the free healthcare program, in line with its vision and mission.  The free healthcare program is aimed at improving the welfare of the Mimika community, and the local administration has called on medical workers in the regency to provide suggestions and input, while the government was seeking the best format to implement the program, he said. “I have heard complaints from members of the public that clinics were still asking for payment for treatments, thus we must be fully committed to supporting the program. The seven tribal communities receive free healthcare at Mitra Masyarakat and Banti hospitals in Tembagapura district, using the 1 percent of gross profits provided by PT Freeport Indonesia as part of its corporate social responsibility program, managed by the Amungme and Kamoro Community Development Institution,” he said.

Muis said the free healthcare program was intended for all Mimika residents and that the regency administration was currently seeking the best ways to provide residents with free healthcare.

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