Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting things off the ground in Aceh

Getting things off the ground in Aceh
Nani Afrida, The Jakarta Post | Wed, 02/29/2012 10:49 AM
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Sigli General Hospital in Pidie, Aceh, may not be perfect but it meets the public’s needs for free medical services.

However, if inpatients want to avoid having to sleep on the floor due to no room availability, they need to take a bed with them.

Upon entering the hospital’s emergency room, dozens of people were seen lying on the floor waiting to be treated.

On rainy days, it drizzles inside the hospital due to the countless leaks in its roof.

“It’s like a war-time hospital,” said one visitor.

But instead of complaining about the conditions, inpatients happily accept the services.

“Free medical treatment is more important than grumbling about the hospital’s facilities,” one patient injured in a motorcycle accident said.

Despite the shortcomings, many people have expressed gratitude for the free medical treatment introduced in the middle of 2010 under the Aceh Health Insurance (JKA) program, the first in the province’s history.

By showing an identity card, public hospitals throughout Aceh are required to provide free services and medicine for patients.

If the province’s hospitals are unable to cure someone, the Aceh administration refers them to Jakarta for further treatment and the cost is covered by Acehnese taxpayers’ money.

Being among the country’s five most poorest provinces after Papua, West Papua, Maluku and Nusa Tenggara Timur, Aceh has set an example of how to maximize the provincial budget to the public’s benefit.

The JKA program has put outgoing Aceh governor Irwandi Yusuf ahead of his rivals in the April 9 gubernatorial election.

Irwandi has also handed out scholarships to orphans and high-performing students, as well as provided villages with financial assistance to help improve roads and mosques.

The scholarships include enrollment in top universities overseas.

Improving connectivity appears to be another endeavor undertaken by the administration to please the public.

Now it is getting easier to travel to former Free Aceh Movement (GAM) strongholds in Sawang district, North Aceh, following the construction of a new highway.

The road that leads to the district was once heavily damaged and difficult to traverse.

However, infrastructure improvement appears to be unequal in other GAM strongholds in East Aceh, where damaged bridges and roads are not uncommon.

“Having many GAM members in an area does not ensure swift development or better infrastructure,” said Imran, a villager from Keude Geurubak in East Aceh.

“It probably depends on how important your representatives were in the GAM organization,” he said.

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