Indonesian church members respond to virus in hospital, hotel

Jun 1, 2020 by

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The Mennonite community is working with the local government to mitigate the risk and manage the spread of COVID-19 cases in Kudus, a city of more than 800,000 people in Central Java, Indonesia.

Mardi Rahayu Hospital has been treating COVID-19 cases since March 20. The facility was built in 1969 by members of Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia (GKMI) Kudus congregation after five years of running a clinic beside the church building.

Workers pray in April at Mardi Rahayu Hospital in Kudus, Indonesia. The facility was built in 1969 by members of the city’s Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia congregation. — Rina Ristanami/MWC

Workers pray in April at Mardi Rahayu Hospital in Kudus, Indonesia. The facility was built in 1969 by members of the city’s Gereja Kristen Muria Indonesia congregation. — Rina Ristanami/MWC

“The hospital has made some upgrades by adding isolation beds, four with ventilators,” said managing director Dr. Pujianto. “We have stepped up handwashing and hygiene procedures, applied a no-visitation policy, trained staff on how to pre-screen every person prior to entering the building and handled suspected and confirmed COVID-19 cases, as well as applied a one-patient-per-room-policy at no extra cost to prevent contagion.”

Rina Ristanami is a member of Gereja Injili Tanah Jawa (MWC member Evangelical Church of Java, or GITJ) and works at the hospital.

“It’s a trying time for us all, physically and emotionally,” Ristanami said. “COVID-19 spreads so fast, and we are learning as we go about how to handle patients from the moment they come in the door until they are discharged. We often don’t know whether a patient has the virus until several days later.”

Personal protective equipment such as N95 masks, examination gloves and protective suits are in short supply.

“We are thankful for individuals and organizations who have dropped off protective equipment, sanitizers, meal boxes or little gifts of appreciation,” Ristanami said. “We know our brothers and sisters are also praying for our health and safety. This keeps us going.”

Isolation hotel

The fact that patients come to the hospital unaware they have COVID-19, or even lying about their symptoms and contact history, takes a toll on staff. All 1,400 hospital staff are taking rapid tests for SARS CoV2 antibodies. As of May 3, 13 staff have been confirmed to have COVID-19. Those who return reactive results are quarantined at two local hotels until they receive swab test results. One of the hotels is managed by Tris Suyitno, a Mennonite from GKMI Kudus.

“The hotel is empty, and home-based quarantine is not practical for many people,” he said. “By serving quarantine at our hotel, each person has a dedicated living space and does not have to worry about food, internet connection or passing on the virus to their household members.”

Initially, Suyitno was concerned about exposing his staff and family to the virus.

“But it’s not right to just stay behind and not offer our place when staff members need work and the government is in dire need for quarantine facilities other than hospitals,” he said.

Mennonite churches in Kudus are also distributing lunch boxes and providing low-cost food staples for those who have no income or savings.

“The city-level government, provincial government, non-profits, businesses and community of faith are working together to manage this,” Pujianto said. “Please support us by praying for the health of medical and essential workers and that people will adhere to government instructions to minimize the spread of the virus.”

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