Serving the healthcare needs of palm oil communities
Dr. Yossy Ani Pritarini Purba, 48 years old, Riau
“I’m the resident doctor at the Sentral Ujung Tanjung Clinic in Siak, Riau. The clinic opens 24 hours every day, tending to the healthcare needs of Golden Agri-Resources (GAR) employees working in this plantation and their family members.
Palm oil plantations are often far away from cities, which means far away from medical facilities. Communities in these areas rely greatly on the clinic for immediate medical attention. In fact, the next closest clinic is more than two hours away by car. This is one of the main reasons why I wanted to be attached to this clinic—I know my service is vital to the community.
Besides providing healthcare services to the injured and sick, I also conduct health education for various groups of the community. For example, I engage with the employees in topics such as disease awareness, and for school children, topics like nutrition and hygiene. I also work closely with the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) team for physical examinations on employees twice a year, to ensure they are fit and healthy.
I have been working here for 14 years and one of the most unforgettable moments in my career was the forest fires in 2015, largely caused by illegal slash-and-burn practices of farmers. During the crisis, I treated hundreds of patients a day—sometimes up to 500 a day. My colleagues and I had to work 24-hour shifts as there were so many people affected with respiratory infections, sore throats, and coughs. It was a trying time.
We also took the opportunity to spread awareness to the community on haze-related topics such as how to minimise exposure by a wearing mask and staying indoors when possible. The company also provided free medical treatment in areas exposed to haze. I hope that with all the measures put in place for fire management and prevention, the incident will not happen again.
Having a dedicated clinic on the plantation premises really benefits the employees and their families. Doctors get to build relationships and are able to monitor their patients’ healthcare needs by knowing their medical history.
There are lots of reasons why people choose to become doctors. My reason was so I can help people in need daily. It brings me great joy when I see my patients recover. My three children, two girls and a boy, said they want to be just like mummy when they grow up.”
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