JAKARTA: Indonesia’s parliament today approved sweeping revisions to healthcare laws aimed at attracting foreign talent and improving services, sparking protests by medical workers concerned that they could be disadvantaged.
Hundreds of medical workers protested outside parliament in the capital Jakarta, demanding further public consultation on the reforms, which they say could weaken their protections.
The new laws will make it easier for foreign doctors to practise in Indonesia, enable patients to file criminal complaints against medical workers for malpractice and remove a requirement for the state to allocate 5% of its budget to the health sector, a parliamentarian told Reuters yesterday.
Health minister Budi Gunadi Sadikin said in parliament the law is aimed at transforming healthcare in the world’s fourth-most populous country.
“After the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the time to rebuild our health system,” he said.
Indonesia, a country of more than 270 million people, has about seven doctors for every 10,000 people, according to World Health Organization data, below Thailand with nine doctors, Philippines with eight doctors or Australia with 41 doctors per 10,000.
The government has said granting permits for foreign doctors is intended to make up for staff shortages.
In the new law, foreign specialist workers must already have worked for five years overseas and pass an evaluation, according to Charles Honoris, deputy chief of the parliamentary commission overseeing health.
Parliament also said the mandatory budget allocation was at risk of misuse whereas the new law would allow for more targeted spending.
But medical associations have raised concerns that slashing the mandatory budget allocation would strain public health centres across the country.
The law is set to take effect immediately but the government would need to issue other regulations for its implementation.
Mohammed Adib Khumaidi, head of Indonesia’s medical association said the new law “will destabilise the health sector”.
The medical community also criticised the provision allowing patient data to be shared with overseas agencies.
Parliament said the data can only be shared with the patients’ consent.