Hospital Overflows Bring Indonesia Quake Victims to Parking Lots, Streets

As the number of fatalities for the 6.3-magnitude earthquake in Indonesia rises by the hour and is said to top 5,000 on Monday, aid groups are quick to point out the crisis in lack of medical facilities to treat the thousands of injured victims.

Medical supplies and teams of doctors, nurses and technicians were on the scene of the disaster soon after the tremors nearly flattened the whole town of Bantul, whose resident is reported to account for two thirds of the fatalities according to The Associated Press.

Christian groups flooded to the affected areas – some within a few hours of the quake – to assess the damage and distribute emergency supplies.

According to reports from the Christian relief teams, injured survivors are being delivered to hospitals that already have six-times their patient capacity. Patients are said to be laying in parking lots and streets, some with their saline solution hanging off of tree branches.

World Vision’s 15-member relief team, which arrived Sunday morning, is providing medical care and distributing relief supplies to quake victims in Bantul and Klaten districts while rushing to complete an initial assessment of needs.

"Conditions are most desperate in the rural villages," reports World Vision staff doctor Ronald Gunawan, who toured Bantul district on Monday morning. "Here, 80 to 90 percent of homes and building have been destroyed."

During his tour, Gunawan assessed the medical needs in Bantul city, visited several community health centers and the main public hospital.

"1200 patients have arrived at this hospital, which has capacity for only 200," he said. "The injured are being treated in the parking lot and on the ground outside."

World Vision plans to support overwhelmed health centers in the area with medicines, hygiene kits, tents, supplies of clean water, sanitation facilities, and other medical supplies.

Meanwhile, The Salvation Army’s locally-based Compassion in Action team is on the ground providing assistance to survivors, the international Christian relief group reported Monday.

Commissioner Johannes Watilete, leader of The Salvation Army in Indonesia, reported that the first team of ten medical specialist workers, including doctors and nurses from the organization’s William Booth Hospital in Semarang, set up operations in the town of Bantul.

Major Dina Ismael, SA’s relief coordinator, reports that the team is employing the methods which were successfully developed during the tsunami response last year.

“Our Compassion in Action teams will be on hand to offer continuous assistance to those who have suffered,” said Ismael. “Personnel will be rotated on a weekly basis to maintain the support program and sustain the assistance we are providing. In addition to the medical field hospitals, our teams will also provide tents and other urgently needed relief supplies.”

Members of the global alliance Action by Churches Together (ACT) – YAKKUM Emegency Unit (YEU), Yayasan Tanggul Bencana Indonesia (YTBI), and Church World Service (CWS) – are also providing much-needed medical aid to the quake victims.

YEU has been mainly focused on offering medical care to the quake victims. Following the quake on Saturday, YEU began providing medical services and assessments through mobile clinics in the affected areas. The mobile clinics are staffed by six medical teams, each made up of doctors, nurses and support staff to handle information and assist in organizing communities. YEU has also established health posts to provide medical services.

YEU noted in their overall observations that there was a lack of first aid kits and medicine, no adequate latrines and other sanitation facilities, and a need for food and essential non-food items.

In each village, the teams treated between 30 to 150 patients. The teams also distributed hygiene kits from CWS. Baby kits from YTBI were distributed to patients in Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta.

Caritas Internationalis reported on Monday that seven Catholic hospitals in the disaster area have been treating the injured, while outreach teams of doctors and nurses have been providing medical assistance to people in more remote areas. The national office of the Catholic Health Commission has also arranged for more doctors and nurses to be sent to Yogyakarta from Catholic hospitals in Jakarta and Bandung.

Operation Blessing reported that it has five medical teams on the ground: three in Bantul; one team to drive three ambulances into outlying areas to retrieve victims needing immediate care; and one in the pediatrics ward at Bethesda Hospital in Yogyakarta.

The early morning quake last weekend was Indonesia’s worst disaster since the 2004 9.1 magnitude quake-tsunami that claimed some 223,000 lives. Saturday’s disaster fattened nearly all the buildings in the hardest-hit town of Bantul, may have been responsible for triggering a nearby volcano, and left thousands of residents homeless and injured.

Baptist World Aid/Hungarian Baptist Aid’s Rescue 24, which helped with the 2004 tsunami relief efforts and is currently carrying out post-tsunami work, dispatched a medical team from Nias Island late Saturday.

"The Medical Team consisting of 6 doctors and paramedics with half a metric ton of equipment will be joined by two Singaporean paramedics to work together with local Indonesian Baptists," reported HBAid's Bela Szilagyi on Monday. “They will also assess needs and possible ways for Baptists to be involved in later stages of humanitarian relief and rehabilitation."

Medical Assistance Program (MAP) International has agreed to provide two emergency health kits, each with enough medical supplies for 10,000 people for three months.