It may look like a river boat to many, but for residents scattered along the banks of Pengabuan River in Jambi Province, the Floating Doctors Mobile Clinic is literally a lifeline that connects them to modern medical care.
The speedboat-clinic is a service coordinated in partnership between the government-operated health center in Tebing Tinggi and the nearby PT. Lontar Papyrus Pulp & Paper Industry. It regularly carries medical staff to villages that are so remote that it can take a day to reach them by road.
“In the old days (before the floating clinic) we had to drive to a designated area and then had to walk from there to the river,” said Dr. Hj Putri Handayani Sjam, a member of the mobile clinic. “From there, we had to take a boat to cross the river. As you can imagine, it could take quite a while. Now, we collaborate with Lontar Papyrus and all we have to do is pick up the phone and ask them for the boat to take us to any designated places.”
Sjam said that because the distance between the main road and the river bank is “very far,” walking can easily take hours, if not most of the day. The boat – purchased and maintained by Lontar Papyrus – slashes the travel time to minutes, she said.
“Just imagine how hard it would be if Lontar Papyrus was not here to assist us,” she said.
Rudiansyah SKM, head of the nearby government health center and a frequent member of the mobile clinic team, said that without the boat, it would be “challenging” to provide services to residents in the remotest areas along Pengabuan River, many of whom would have no other access to healthcare and couldn’t afford it even if they did.