Quake vicitms overtax hospitals in Indonesia


An elderly Indonesian man, injured in by Saturday's earthquake, lies outside a hospital Wednesday in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, June 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 at 10:28 p.m.
BANTUL, Indonesia - The main hospital in the district hardest hit by Indonesia's killer earthquake is running short of blood and splints. Victims cram corridors and the parking lot, sleeping on scraps of cardboard, some waiting an entire day for care.
Four days after the quake struck the Indonesian island of Java, patients occupied every available spot Wednesday in the hot, dirty hospital in Bantul district. The stench of urine and trash wafted through the main hall, where more than 150 victims lay on the floor just inches apart, a cracked roof overhead.
Many were still wearing the clothes they had on when the magnitude-6.3 quake struck early Saturday, killing more than 6,200 people and injuring some 30,000 in this region of rice farming communities.
"Ninety percent of the victims have fractures," said Bantul Hospital's emergency coordinator, Dr. Hidayat, who like many Indonesians uses only one name.
"We are short of splints, gauze, even beds," he said. "The minute we get fresh splits, they are gone."
Medical supplies, rice, water and tarps were delivered to the disaster zone Wednesday to help about 650,000 displaced people, but many said the international aid was taking too long to get there.
Doctors said there have been few amputations, unlike the hundreds of victims who lost limbs after the massive 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, which killed 131,000 people in Indonesia's remote Aceh province alone.
"We were much better off here in terms of health services, which were intact" and accessible, said Dr. Vijay Nanth of the World Health Organization.
After the tsunami, it took weeks for the massive aid effort to reach full speed. Much of the provincial capital Banda Aceh was destroyed and the region at the tip of Sumatra island was cut off for days after the disaster.
These factors led to long delays in which injuries festered, and emergency medical teams swamped with casualties had to act quickly to save lives.
The latest disaster happened on central, densely populated Java.
While the destruction was widespread, covering hundreds of square miles of mostly farming communities to the south of the ancient city of Yogyakarta, roads remained open and emergency medical aid arrived quickly.
One exception was Handoyo, a 60-year-old rice farmer, who had to have his crushed right leg amputated below the knee after being unable to get treatment at three overcrowded hospitals.
"There were too many victims and it was a little bit late," he said at a hospital in Solo, about three hours' drive from Bantul. "My right leg kept bleeding for more than two days, until it became rotten."
At least 45 community health centers and 44 primary health units were damaged by the quake, the United Nations said. Several portable field hospitals and at least 10 mobile clinics have been set up to cope with the injuries, it said.
Bantul Hospital continues to receive about 50 patients a day - some brought in the back of pickup trucks or on broken doors used as makeshift stretchers.
It is packed with more than 400 victims and their families - about four times its normal capacity. Since Saturday, its approximately 30 doctors have seen more than 2,000 patients, Hidayat said.
With 135,000 houses destroyed by the quake, many patients have no homes to return to.
Instead, the hospital grounds have become home to many.
"My roof fell on me. It cracked my knee," said Jupriharjono, 70, lying at the entrance to the hospital, still wearing the same clothes as when he was wheeled in on Saturday.
Others lay on the ground, near garbage and used needles, bandages and gloves. Family members fanned those exposed to the blazing sun in the hospital driveway.
Kamenen, a 33-year-old housewife, said she was brought to the hospital with a broken leg on Saturday afternoon, but wasn't registered until after midnight.
"I was given no medicine to relieve the pain. And they finally operated on me on Sunday morning," she said as she lay on pieces of cardboard and the door of her ruined house.
Conditions have improved at hospitals in less severely hit areas. Parking lots and hallways that were filled with hundreds of victims immediately after the quake are now clear, with most patients now being treated in beds.

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