Residents living in Mentawai Islands regency in West Sumatra fear requiring emergency medical treatment that needs blood transfusions, such as bleeding during childbirth and accidents, due to the absence of a blood bank.
"She gave birth to her fourth child at the Tuapejat regional hospital. The baby boy was delivered normally, but she suffered a hemorrhage and the hospital did not have blood supplies," resident Sandang Paruhum, of the regency's capital Tuapejat, said regarding the loss of a sister-in-law in September last year.
"It was night. We struggled to look for a chartered boat to take her to Padang. Fuel was also scarce then. Her life could not be saved although her son survived," Sandang told The Jakarta Post on Tuesday.
He said taking her to Padang would have been in vain due to the distance, as it takes five hours to travel there by boat.
According to Sandang, there were several similar cases in the regency in which mothers died due to bleeding, not to mention those living in island districts who had to be referred from community health clinics to Tuapejat hospital.
"Giving birth is a fear here, as well as being involved in accidents, so the government must immediately overcome the problem," said Sandang.
Meanwhile, Mentawai Islands Health Office head Lahmuddin Siregar acknowledged that one of the healthcare problems in the regency was the lack of a blood bank. He added that Tuapejat hospital, which was built in 2005, was the only hospital in the regency and was still categorized as Type D.
"The problem is, the only hospital lacks a blood bank. The Indonesian Red Cross [PMI] is also not available here. There are also no private hospitals, so for blood transfusions, patients have to go to Padang," Lahmuddin told the Post on Tuesday.
He said discussions were currently being held with the PMI about opening a branch in Tuapejat and immediately forming a Blood Transfusion Unit (UTD). He added that Tuapejat hospital was also making efforts to set up a blood bank immediately.
"A blood bank needs trained members and this must also be prepared," he said.
According to him, his office recorded seven maternal mortality cases in 2014, most of which were due to bleeding.
Regency council speaker Yosep Sarogdok acknowledged that the absence of a blood bank at Tuapejat hospital was a serious issue feared by the community.
"Now, those who can afford it go to Padang at eight months of pregnancy to deliver their babies. They are afraid to face the risk. This obviously costs a lot and not everyone can afford it," he said.
Mentawai deputy Regent Rijel Samaloisa said the blood bank issue in Mentawai Islands was not only associated with the procurement of equipment, but hampered by an unstable power supply and frequent blackouts in Tuapejat, as well as high fuel costs.
"This is work for us that the procurement of a blood bank involves many stakeholders," he said.
According to Rijel, the central government must help Mentawai Islands in providing standard health care.
"We don't only need a hospital with a blood bank in the regency capital but three hospitals equipped with blood banks on the major islands of Sipora, Siberut and Pagai, because it's unbearable for a patient to cross the sea for four hours to Padang," he said.
A lack of blood supplies does not only occur in Mentawai since many areas in the country are also facing the same problem.
In Gorontalo, limited blood stocks at the UTD of the city's PMI hospital have led to a presence of commercial blood donors who offer their blood for Rp 200,000 (S$20) to Rp 300,000 a bag.