A Volunteering Doctor for COVID-19 In A District Hospital In Indonesia

By Andi Nugraha

As a doctor, I feel blessed to have an opportunity to take my specialization in Internal Medicine at Airlangga University, Indonesia (UNAIR). Our District Hospital, dr. Soetomo Hospital is one of the biggest hospitals in our country and a referral center of East Indonesia. For your information, Indonesia has only three referral centers for East Indonesia, Central Indonesia, and West Indonesia. I have known this all along and actually, and I made my decision based on that fact. 

In my first years, I was thrilled with the variety of conditions that my patients have. I learned a lot about how to treat my patients wholly, not only from the physical diseases but other aspects such as mental health (for patients with severe conditions) and social issues for patients with an infectious disease, which has created a stigma in society.

After one year and a half, I started to get used to this residency. And some things have become daily routines before a misfortune comes. Like in other parts of the world, hospitals in Indonesia are adjusted to the COVID standard. As residents, we were offered whether we were reluctant to help to treat patients with COVID-19 (who will later be placed in isolation rooms and come into direct contact with patients with the viral infection). Without lengthy consideration, I signed the agreement. As a COVID-19 volunteer, I often go into some predicaments. I found almost all patient’s families wanted to accompany the patient by his/her bed. However, it’s not possible because, in addition to systemic illnesses such as Diabetes Mellitus/Hypertension/Chronic Kidney Disease, the patient also suffered from COVID-19. After a long-winded explanation, finally, the family comes to terms with the patient’s medical condition. This indicates the urgency for policymakers and volunteer doctors to immediately promote understanding of the dangers of COVID-19 and its known modes of transmission. On several occasions, the hospital was protested by the public or threatened with lawsuits, and some medical workers experienced physical violence because of this lack of understanding.

One thing that entices me is the solid teamwork of my fellow residents, especially my peers. When at one time, one of our friends tested positive for COVID-19, we not only encouraged him but also gave food recommendations and helped him met small daily needs. One of them is mosquito killer racket (yes, this is an essential tool for tropical countries), vitamins that are proven right against COVID-19 evidence-based, and many other things. Every day without coordination, we also took turns making video calls to ask how he felt that day, whether there were new complaints or improvements from the previous days. When our friend experienced denial with his illness, we continued to provide support, reminding him that this was temporary, and we could get through it. I was pleased with our efforts. Our friend got more motivated to recover soon, and his appetite increased once again. I am thrilled to have peers with such high solidarity.

To conclude, from my COVID-19 voluntary experience, it’s essential to treat our patients medically, but other aspects also need to be considered. Meanwhile, an action to encourage public knowledge about the viral disease should be taken. Also, doctors are just the same as everyone else. When we come into close contact with a COVID-19 patient, even with standard protection, there is still a small chance we can contract the disease. At the end of the day, if our colleagues get infected, our support is of utmost importance. They may not ask for it but provide it nevertheless.

This article was written by Andy Nugraha, a general practitioner currently taking residency in Internal Medicine, was submitted as a part of APYouthS’ Article Submission program. We are calling for enthusiastic and impassioned youths in Asia-Pacific who are willing to share their firsthand experience regarding youths projects and activities, volunteering involvement, conferences, exchange, and scholarship programs on the APYouthS’ website. Submit your article now through

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of Asia-Pacific Youth Service.

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