Indonesian patients seeking treatment in Kuching due to shorter travel distance, not lack of trust in local healthcare

Abdul Karim speaks to the press at the bike expedition flag-off ceremony in conjunction with State-Level Teacher’s Day 2022 celebration at Sarawak Education Department here today (Aug 12, 2022).

By Nur Ashikin Louis

KUCHING, Aug 12: Indonesian patients from West Kalimantan, Indonesia seek medical treatment in Kuching due to the shorter travel distance and it does not imply that their home country is lacking in quality healthcare services.

Sarawak Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts Minister Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said it is common for affluent families to spend extra money or to go abroad especially for healthcare.

“I know many Indonesian citizens who are well-off and go to Singapore to get medical treatment. Similarly, Malaysians also go to India, Singapore and Australia to get medical services. That is normal. It is a form of (medical) tourism.

“I admit that many Indonesians come (to Kuching) to seek medical services. This is not to say that Indonesia’s level of healthcare is not satisfactory, no.

“Probably it is because they (Indonesian patients) live near the (Sarawak-Kalimantan) border like Pontianak, Sambas, Pemangkat, Singkawang, etc. They might see it as nearer to go to Sarawak instead of going to Pulau Jawa,” he told reporters during a bike expedition flag-off ceremony in conjunction with the State-Level Teacher’s Day 2022 celebration at the Sarawak Education Department here today.

He was responding to Indonesian president Joko Widodo’s (Jokowi) remark yesterday (Aug 11) who described the act of Indonesians seeking treatment abroad was as if they do not trust the capabilities of Indonesian health institutions.

This came following a report dated July 24 stating that over 1,000 Indonesian patients from West Kalimantan underwent treatment at Normah Medical Specialist Centre in Kuching since the opening of the State’s borders on April 1.

Abdul Karim further said the significant number of Indonesians travelling to the State implied that Indonesia’s economy has improved, which allowed people to afford seeking medical treatment abroad.

“The encouraging number of Indonesian patients coming in had also caused many private hospitals to spring up like mushrooms. They (Indonesians) will not go to government hospitals, they will go to private hospitals.

“For me, it is just like going on a holiday. I like to go to Indonesia to eat ‘Nasi Padang’. I cannot advise the locals not to go to Indonesia or go to Bali. We should leave it (to them),” he added.

He also mentioned that in 2019, there were 47,000 foreign patients seeking treatment in Sarawak. Out of that figure, 41,000 were Indonesian patients.

For the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic, the Tebedu border gate in Serian, which borders the PLBN (cross-border post) Entikong, Sanggau, West Kalimantan, has reopened on April 1 this year.

Sarawak has two more borders, namely the Biawak Border (bordering the Aruk PLBN, Sambas) and the Lubuk Antu Border (bordering the Nanga Badau PLBN, Kapuas Hulu). — DayakDaily