Indonesia Medical Assistance to the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste – A Friendship for the Present and Future

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MCIF 2/2016

On July 9, 2015, the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste (Ministry of Defense) wrote a letter of invitation to the Medical Team of the Central Army Hospital Gatot Soebroto, Jakarta asking for medical assistance in Timor Leste. The Indonesian Minister of Defense, General (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu, responded by ordering a medical task force consisting of the Indonesian Army, Navy, Air Force, the Surgeon General of TNI HQ and Mindef. The mission was to be executed by KRI dr Soeharso 990, a level III hospital warship from Indonesia’s Eastern Fleet.

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The Medical Service of the national defense system carries out missions to support Operation Military War (OMW) and Operation Other Than War (OOTW) according to article 7 of the Indonesia Defense Force Law No 23, 2004. The Medical Service of the national defense system regards human resources as a core strength. Quotes from the fighting man show the importance of human resources in the management of all other resources.

To enhance the ability of the medical personnel, formal as well as informal , training and field experiences either national or international are required. The experiences can be achieved through civilian missions like treatment of mass casualtiesor social work. The TNI or Indonesia Defense Force has many OOTW activities within the country and outside the country, which are needed because of war, conflict or natural disasters. Medical assistance to RDTL is one of many kinds of programs that have been initiated. It is important for Indonesia to fulfill this mission to increase bilateral cooperation between RI and RDTL, for capacity building measure opening new opportunities in the future.

The Invitation

MCIF 2-16-UB-02On July 9, 2015, the RDTL Ministry of Defense wrote a letter of invitation to the Medical Team of the Central Army Hospital Gatot Soebroto, Jakarta to render medical assistance in Timor Leste. This letter was responded to by the Indonesian Minister of Defense, General (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu promising to create a medical task force consisting of the Indonesian Army, Navy, Air Force, the Surgeon General of TNI HQ and Mindef. The mission was to be executed with KRI dr Soeharso 990, a level III hospital warship from Indonesia’s Eastern Fleet.

The Task Force issued terms of references as a guide rfor the mission anda Letter of Order for the task force team from the three forces; also, there were severeal internal meetings of coordination with the RDTL representative in Jakarta. An advance team was send to Dili to find out what kind of help the RDTL actually needed , to determine the spectrum of the diseases and also to assess the medical resources and health infrastructure that could be used. Meanwhile, the hospital warship was prepared in its Main Naval Base in Surabaya, East of Java. The medical assistance was to be administered on the ground and – for selected cases – onboard the ship. Two medical battalions (Army and Marines) went on board with the taskto carry out land based medical services. The main medical resources were general and specialist medical services including dental services. The patients were RDTL veteran, police and military active duty personnel as well as the peoples of Timor Leste. Approximately 2000 patients were expected between January 30th and February 1st 2016 in Dili.

The Hospital Ship, KRI dr Soeharso SHS 990

To execute the mission, the task force was to use the Indonesian Warship (KRI) dr. Soeharso. It is based on a Landing Platform Dock built in 2003 named KRI Tanjung Dalpele and, on August 1st 2007, became a Hospital Ship named after a national hero, Dr Soeharso, with pennant number 990. Commanded by Commander Ashari Alamsyah, the warship can carry 75 crew and 65 medical personnel. In emergency, it can carry 400 troops and 3000 passengers.

With a total length of 400 ft,, an overall beam of 72 ft, and a hull draught of 22 ft, powered by diesel engine it can displace around 16,000 tons at full displacement and reach a top speed of 15 knots with a standard range of 8,600 nautical miles. The hospital ship is equipped with 1 emergency room, 3 operating theaters, 6 polyclinics, 14 support rooms and 2 nursing rooms with 20 beds each. Head of the hospital was Commander A. Pudji Widodo MD from Eastern Fleet Medical Service. This trip was the first overseas mission carried out by the vessel in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense. For this mission, KRI SHS-990 carried one helicopter Bell 412 EP, built by PTDI Bandung West Java in 2012, belonging to 400 Squadron Air Wing 1, Naval Aviation Center for air evacuation. It also carried 2 Landing Craft Units (LCU) for personnel and logistic transportation.

MCIF 2-16-UB-02

The Unforgettable Journey

The task force strength of 426 personnel including 156 crews of the ship and 51 specialist doctors and dentists gathered in Surabaya on January 24th 2016. This team was led by Director General of Defense Strengthen, Rear Admiral Agus Purwoto and his deputies Mindef Director of Health BG Hardjanto MD, Mrs Nora Ryamizard Ryacudu, a dentist and Col Asrofi, MD a plastic surgeon both from Gatot Soebroto Central Army Hospital Jakarta. Chief of Staff was First Admiral I Dewa Gede Nalendra MD, a thoracic surgeon, Chief of Ramelan Navy Hospital Surabaya, Operations Officer was Navy Captain Wiweka MD.

TL-7After an unforgettable four days journey from Surabaya the ship arrived at the port of Dili on January 29th 2016. The ship was warmly greeted by the Indonesian ambassador in Dili, Primanto Hendrasmoro, the RDTL Defense Minister, Cirilo Cristovao, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Hernani Coelho, the Health Minister Maria do Ceu Pina and the citizens of Dili. A welcome dance of Checuvo from Los Palos district was performed to greet the task force team. The RDTL Defense Minister Mr Cirilo Cristovao stated that this mission was the realization of the good relations between the two governments. The operation of medical assistance was then officially opened by Commander Forza Defeza, Major General Lere Anan Timor. The high ranking officials then toured the ships facilities to be used in the mission. Meanwhile hundreds of veterans, police and military personnel of RDTL waited to be examined, because the first day was dedicated to them and their families.

The medical service was conducted both on the ground at the port of Dili and onboard the hospital ship. General medical care, specialist polyclinics and dental care without major surgery was done on the ground. The medical battalions set up tents and prepared the building in the harbor to be used as clinics.

The ground policlinics were General Clinic, Dental and Oral Surgery, ENT, General Surgery, Ophthalmology, Internal, Neurology, Pediatric, Cardiology and Dermatology. Onboard, there were a neurology clinic, which performed an early detection for 60 stroke patients, an operating theater for cataract surgery, major surgery and other selected surgical procedures. Some of the doctors from RDTL also took part in the clinics and operation rooms.

On the first day, 765 veterans and active duty personnel were treated. Also, medical checks of some of the VIP and 13 operations were carried out. On the second day, 1955 patients were seen and 113 operations performed. On the third and last day, 706 patient were treated and 70 operations prformed. The total was 3426 patients and 196 operations! This numbers exceeded the estimate of 2000 patients. Surprisingly, most of the minor operations related to 123 patients requiring circumcision. The citizens of Timor Leste who mostly can speak Bahasa Indonesia said that they had hoped the medical assistance would last for 1 or 2 weeks so more of their families could benefit from the mission.

Hopes for the future

TL-5Mr Xanana Gusmao, who now serves as the country’s Minister of Planning and Strategic Investment, visited the ship twice and expressed hope that such activities could be expanded in the future. He said terima kasih banyak… (thank you very much), obrigado barak, in Tetun language, for the medical assistance rendered by Indonesia when he invited all officers for dinner at Timor Plaza.

Mr Xanana Gusmao said that these mission would enhance the relationship between the governments of Indonesia and Timor-Leste. In the future, he hopes that this activity would be organized in some other areas of Timor-Leste.

At the end of the mission, the RDTL Minister of Defense (Ministerio da Defesa) gave a medal of honor to all members of the Indonesian Medical Task Force as an appreciation of their outstanding services for the peoples of Timor Leste. The medal was received by BG Hardjanto representing all military members and Mrs Nora Ryamizard Ryacudu representing all civilians at the ceremonial of the RDTL Armed Forces.The Indonesian Minister of Defense, Gen (Ret) Ryamizard Ryacudu was present to witness the medal parade and the ceremony of the RDTL anniversary.

After three days of serving, the KRI SHS 990 and its crew departed from Dili harbor to her next mission…leaving behind satisfied patients…friends…brothers and sisters… See you next time Timor Leste…Obrigado barak…