Tommie Niessen - November 06, 2019

I went on a vacation to Indonesia. Such a great country, it was a beautiful holiday.
Because I’m a healthcare worker, I thought it would be nice to learn more about healthcare in Indonesia. 

So I visited a nearby hospital and asked if I could have a look. Not only did they welcome me in, but to my pleasant surprise they offered me to join for an ambulance ride. 

Knowing it would be a great opportunity, I enthusiastically joined my Indonesian colleagues the next morning.


We had the task to transport a patient with the ambulance to a beach from where the patient would be picked up there by boat. The boat would carry the patient to a larger hospital on a different island.

The ambulance wasn’t much like the ones we have in my country, The Netherlands. It was just a white van with the word ‘ambulance’ written on it. 

The designated driver didn’t show up that morning and as a solution the hospital dietitian would drive the vehicle. The patient had to sit in the back of the van, there wasn’t enough room for him to lie down. 


I was allowed to sit in passengers seat besides the dietician. 

The nurse sat with the patient in the back. The patient was unable to walk properly and he was clearly weakened, an IV had been administered. I looked at him slightly worried, but I noticed he was satisfied. He was being cared for and that’s what counted.


We drove over bumpy roads towards the beach. Windows rolled down and the driver honked regularly to people he knew while passing them. When the pedestrians recognised him as well they cheerfully saluted each other. 

I was the only one who thought this was a remarkable situation. No one was surprised about all that cheerful greeting. The patient included, he was still satisfied.


When we arrived at the destination we had to wait another 45 minutes because the boat had gone to the wrong side of the island. 


Tropical HealthcareNot a problem, we all got out of the van and waited quietly in the shade. 

Sitting in the shade was much more comfortable than staying inside the ambulance being exposed to the sun. 

Since there wasn’t an IV pole the nurse kept the solution filled bag up while being busy with his phone. We were there for some time anyway, so why not? 


After nearly one hour the boat finally arrived and picked up the patient. We waved goodbye and drove back to the hospital.


This was a special experience for me to say the least. It taught me different things;

I witnessed that patients are well taken care of during their hospital stay. Not necessarily by doctors or the nursing staff, but particularly by their family members. A patient’s family is present and they brings food and drinks. Members of the family also help  by washing and dressing the patient. 

Medical staff only comes when medical procedures have to be performed. Informal care is very common in Indonesia, it’s the foundation of their healthcare system.

Ever since this experience I realise how fortunate we are in terms of medical facilities in The Netherlands. 

However, when I realise just how well people take care of each other in other countries, I think we can learn a lot from them. 




Tommie Niessen is a bit of a Healthcare rebel. Besides being a dedicated Healthcare worker, he’s also a Writer and Speaker. Tommie is on a mission to draw positive and realistic attention to Healthcare.


Visit Tommie’s website and check out his book Tommie in de Zorg (Dutch edition)




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