Tarakan —Two single cabin cars and an ambulance belonging to a hospital were parked around the Juata Laut area, Tarakan, and the drivers let the engine keep running. They were waiting for the medical oxygen supply to be brought back to the hospital.
It took around a 40-minute road trip from the city center to the oxygen supply center, PT Tarakan Estetika Plaza in Juata Laut. The company’s production capacity could reach up to 250-300 cylinders with a capacity of six cubic meters of oxygen. The results were distributed to a number of hospitals in the city of Tarakan and its surroundings. “Our machines never sleep,” said Yulius Kwan, the owner of the oxygen filling station.
When the Executive Office of the Presiden (KSP) team visited the factory, Yulius Kwan was seen having a serious conversation with the Bhayangkara Hospital employee who was waiting for the oxygen cylinders to be refilled. Apart from Bhayangkara Tarakan Hospital, a number of other hospitals also lined up at the largest oxygen filling station in Tarakan.
“There is only one sufficient oxygen filling station in Tarakan which is located in Juata Laut. Even with it, the oxygen supply still doesn’t meet our needs,” said dr. Franky Sientoro Sp.A, Acting President Director of the Regional General Hospital (RSUD) Tarakan.
Due to the high demand, PT Tarakan Estetika had to shift all of its oxygen supply for medical purposes only. In fact, the company also served some demands for industrial consumption and aquaculture before the pandemic hit the nation.
“We appreciate companies that are willing to adjust their business orientation for humanity. Because the demand for oxygen in Tarakan and Nunukan has skyrocketed due to the rapid transmission of this delta variant," said Agung Rulianto, KSP Senior Advisor.
In addition to the RSUD Tarakan, some other hospitals also lined up for oxygen at the factory, among them were Tarakan City Hospital, Pertamedika Hospital, Bhayangkara Hospital and the Navy Hospital. Shockingly, RSUD Nunukan, which is located on the other side of the island, also took the queue number. "We got the fifth line," said dr. Dulman L, SpOG, President Director of RSUD Nunukan.
The increasing number of Covid-19 patients in Tarakan City overwhelmed Doctor Franky and the health workers. It became inevitable as the RSUD Tarakan became a referral hospital in North Kalimantan Province. Franky said that since the Delta variant began to wreak-havoc in the middle of June this year, the oxygen demand in his hospital could reach up to 300 cylinders.
According to him, a day's need for oxygen reached more than 700 large cylinders with six cubic meter oxygen capacity each. "So the one from Juata is not enough. We also get help from Pupuk Kaltim," said Franky, who is also the Chairman of the Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) in the Province.
Lack of oxygen supply made Doctor Franky and Doctor Dulman think harder on a strategic move. Franky said he even had to make a priority scale for patients who had COVID-19 admitted to his hospital. "We have no choice but to save the oxygen supply," said Franky.
The increasing need for oxygen in Tarakan is indeed related to the increasing transmission of COVID-19 in this oil city. Tarakan Hospital provides 400 wards for COVID and Non-COVID patients. For COVID-19 patients, 120 beds are provided. "The occupancy rate reached 87 percent with a total of 97 [COVID-19] patients," Franky said on Friday (6/8).
The limited supply of oxygen also pushed doctors like Franky to classify COVID-19 patients into moderate, severe to critical scales. "Those with mild symptoms should stay home alone."
The two doctors also suggested residents living at the border areas to remain obedient towards health protocols. In addition, they said, the key to escape from the pandemic was vaccination. Up to the writing of this story, the vaccination in Tarakan City has only reached about 16 percent of the population. Meanwhile, there are 14 thousand people on the waiting list for vaccination. "We are still waiting for the vaccine to come," Franky said.
He sincerely hoped for a herd immunity or communal immunity to be built soon in Tarakan city as the government guaranteed the roll out of the vaccination program. "If so, the city of Tarakan can be free from the pandemic," said Franky.
Government would still continue to overcome the oxygen and vaccine shortages, especially in the outermost areas. “This finding is very important for us. KSP understands the dire situation and we support any efforts to strengthen the COVID-19 responses throughout the country," said KSP Senior Advisor, Agung Rulianto.