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SOS, an AEA Company.
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Medical practice is not universal; medical customs, indications and procedures differ widely between countries and patients' expectations differ even more. If uncomfortable with this and seeking “the same as at home”, as in other aspects of expatriate life, you will be stressed, upset and sometimes angry. If prepared for these differences and having taken the necessary precautions, this situation need not remain the source of chronic complaint and anxiety that it is for some for the whole of any expatriate posting (usually their first and last!).
Before coming to Indonesia people should - as for any trip overseas
- already have a sufficient supply of any prescription medicine needed
until the next trip home. This is because while you may be able to continue
that supply from a local facility, or you may find a local substitute
acceptable to your original prescribing physician, this is not guaranteed;
especially in the dire economic situation Indonesia finds itself in.
Because the approach to the provision of medical care to both the population and the individual is quite different in Indonesia to what you may be used to, try and become a consumer of local health services to spot the differences BEFORE there is an emergency. Form a relationship with a doctor and clinic/hospital that you feel comfortable with.
Group practice medical clinics
The primary care medical facilities in Jakarta most utilized by expatriates are group practice medical clinics. They have a wide range of specialists and are quite capable of providing for most routine medical needs. As they cater to expatriates and middle-class Indonesians, they provide the best standard of medical care that can be given in Indonesia. In addition to a full range of specialists, facilities in the largest cities generally include laboratory, radiology, pharmacy, dental, physiotherapy, ambulance and emergency room services. The goal of these clinics is to provide comprehensive medical care. It is always best to check if they have staff continuously on duty even overnight, and that their ambulance is equipped and staffed to a standard you are comfortable with.
Cultural differences in medical care
However, certain cultural differences make clash with patients' expectations and is best to be informed about these in advance. While in most countries patients expect to be able to ask a doctor a wide range of fairly pointed questions, which may even include statements which imply that the doctor may not be sure of what she is treating or that his prescription will be effective, in Indonesian culture questioning the doctor is not the usual practice of patients. While doctors in the centers which cater to expatriates do expect to be questioned, and understand that foreigners may be more educated consumers of medical services than they are accustomed to seeing, it remains the case as in all societies that understanding the local practitioner's point of view and using politeness and patience rather than confrontation and aggression will lead to a more satisfactory consultation for both parties.
This is not to say that patients must accept a consultation
where they feel frustrated about not knowing what is wrong or about not
getting better. It is to say that patients are best to have in reserve
access to a medical advisory service either onshore or offshore who they
can contact 24 hours a day in an emergency and who they can call during
working hours for routine independent medical advice.
Many medications can be purchased over the counter that would only be available by prescription in your home country. However in most cases the manufacturer is different and therefore the drug is identified by a different brand name - know the generic (chemical) name of your medicines if you think you are going to need to restock locally. It pays to bring the package insert from your previous prescription with you. Fraudulent drugs are not a major problem, but be careful and check the dispensed drug before you pay for it.
You will need to pay cash at the completion of all medical consultations - and very few medical facilities in Indonesia outside the main centers accept credit cards. When they do, they often only accept VISA and Master Card.
Overseas treatment and medical evacuation
For serious injuries and illnesses, many expatriates and Indonesians alike choose to go overseas for treatment. The usual referral center is Singapore, as it is cheaper to fly there than to the two most common referral centers in Australia. However, the standard of care between the two countries is very little and some Westerners may be more comfortable with the medical approach in Australia. The cost of medical treatment in Singapore is often two to three times that in Australia, so for more extensive treatment this definitely offsets more expensive air fares.
The option to go overseas for treatment not only depends on whether you can afford it or whether your company will pay for it, because in some cases of injury and illness it is not possible to fly by normal commercial flight, or at the very least a doctor must accompany the patient. All medical evacuations are expensive, and if you do not have insurance coverage for medical evacuation few can afford to pay for it themselves.
Even if you do have insurance coverage for medical evacuation, many insurance companies, especially those in Europe and the United States, may not accept the necessity to go overseas for treatment. To avoid disillusionment and, frankly, fear in an emergency, it is strongly recommended that you check with your insurance company at the beginning of your stay in Indonesia on what conditions and situations they will accept as requiring treatment overseas.
If possible, before you come, be sure you understand EXACTLY what medical care and what evacuation services your employer is offering.
Medical advisory service
We noted earlier that patients are best to have in reserve access to a medical advisory service either onshore or offshore who they can contact in an emergency and for routine independent medical advice. International SOS is the premier provider of such services in Indonesia, and indeed is the largest provider worldwide. It may be useful to know how such a service operates. International SOS has three functions relevant to individual expatriates:
Constraints (in other than medical emergencies):
You should contact International SOS or your medical assistance company if you or your family are admitted to any hospital in Indonesia and the medical team are proposing blood products. As per WHO, screening for HIV is not universal (97%) in Indonesia and the HIV testing across all of Indonesia is not to the level of international standards, although the Red Cross is currently gradually introducing the international standard HIV test for blood screening.
If you require an urgent blood transfusion in Indonesia, the hospital will arrange for the correct blood type to be ordered. Rh neg blood is very rare in Indonesians and as such there is a volunteer blood donor committee who works with the Red Cross and can assist to organize urgent donations from a registry of volunteer expatriates in the event RH Negative blood is limited or not available.
For further information, read Blood Donations in Indonesia - Rhesus Negative Blood.
Medical Care Across the Indonesian Archipelago
If you live outside Jakarta, or are planning to travel outside Jakarta, please see International SOS's Medical Clinics and Assistance Centres listing.
For information on medical insurance, see the Medical Insurance page.
We trust this information will assist you in making correct choices regarding your health and welfare. However, it is not intended to be a substitute for personalized advice from your medical advisor.
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