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Female healthcare heroes: interview with Dr Chyntia Jasirwan « Back to Blogs

Interview with Dr Chyntia Jasirwan

According to the WHO, 70% of the world’s health workers are women. As we celebrate International Women’s Day this month, we want to spotlight some of the incredible women we have met through the ADB/BMJ partnership and who have been actively working on the frontline during the pandemic.

Dr Chyntia Jasirwan is a gastroenterologist and hepatologist in Indonesia, Jakarta. She works mainly in Cipto Mangunkusumo Hospital –  a tertiary government hospital and one of Indonesia’s university hospitals. Dr Jasirwan shared with us her experience of working through the pandemic in Indonesia.  

What does the COVID-19 situation look like in Indonesia right now?

This pandemic has changed everything. In our hospital, we cannot be divided into our divisions because of patients’ burden, so all of us, even though we have sub-specialties, are all treating patients with covid.

At the beginning of the pandemic, many non-covid patients were afraid to come to the hospital, but when they were at late stages of their disease and needed admission, we could not find beds for them as the bed capacity was filled with patients with covid. We have a burden of cases, but we have a shortage of human resources, with doctors over 55 years of age staying at home.

What has been your personal experience with Covid-19? 

I am a covid-19 survivor. My experience of getting infected with the virus was different from those who were infected at the beginning of this pandemic. In the early stages, we were not prepared and did not know our patients had covid, so some medical doctors died. I was infected and recovered, but now I know how it feels. Once I tested negative again, I came back to work with patients with covid. I came back to my patients with more empathy and love because I can feel what they feel when nobody wants to be around you, everyone is afraid of you, and no one can help you. I am still afraid, but I can repress my scared feelings. I am doing my best to support them. 

What has been your biggest challenge working through this pandemic?

The hardest thing we face here is educating the public that the pandemic is still with us – even though we have the vaccine. We have so many anti-vaxxers. Many still think that the pandemic is a conspiracy or that the pandemic is not accurate. There are many COVID-19 cases in our community with no symptoms, so they feel that the virus is not real. 

There is also much mistrust around the vaccine, thinking it could kill us or comes with side effects. I try to educate these patients using social media and give them evidence-based information. As healthcare professionals, we are trying to endorse and provide some education to society. Our government is making a policy – everyone who does not want to be vaccinated without a valid reason will not be eligible for insurance or will get reduced government support. Maybe we need these new laws to make the vaccine program successful.

How has the care you provide changed as a result of the pandemic?

I have had to adapt to everything. We have to work with complete personal protective equipment (PPE) from a distance using digital telemedicine. When we visit our patients, we have to shorten the time with them. I know that the patients want to converse at great length, but everything has been time-limited.

What is your message to fellow colleagues?

We have to learn more and read more as this is a new disease. We have to follow the evidence-based protocols, and we must find the best treatments. Do not be afraid. Try your best to be resilient and keep your immunity strong. Give the best that you can give to your patients and be more empathetic. Have hope, and everything will improve with time.

Our sincere thanks to Dr Chyntia Jasirwan for taking the time to speak to us and Sadika Aktar, our Global Health intern who conducted the interview.

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