Are Singapore’s doctors superior to Indonesia’s? Comedian’s tweet sparks debate

Indonesian comedian Kiky Saputri. Photo: Instagram/@kikysaputrii
Indonesian comedian Kiky Saputri. Photo: Instagram/@kikysaputrii

Earlier this week, President Joko Widodo lamented how the country loses out on IDR165 trillion in foreign exchange due to 2 million Indonesians getting medical care abroad annually. According to the president, of those 2 million, 1 million routinely go to Malaysia, 750 thousand go to Singapore, while the rest go to the US, Germany, and Japan.

Though Jokowi says Indonesia’s medical care standards are high enough that we don’t need to be exporting patients abroad, a lot of Indonesians feel differently. One of those is comedian Kiky Saputri, who tweeted this in response to Jokowi’s statement.

“My in-law was diagnosed with ear stroke due to sudden hearing impairment. [A doctor in Indonesia] gave an in-ear injection and that exacerbated the hearing issues,” Kiky wrote in the tweet.

“We eventually went to a hospital in Singapore and the doctor there laughed, saying there is no such thing as ear stroke. [My in-law] had flu which affected the ears, and they are now healed.”

Kiky’s tweet attracted condemnation from Indonesian doctors who are prominent on social media, who accused her of belittling medical professionals in the country. At the same time, many netizens came to her defense, speaking about their experience of dealing with impersonal Indonesian doctors, who are unlike those abroad.

For what it’s worth, we did not find any medical publications abroad categorizing sudden hearing loss as “ear stroke.”

At any rate, the Ministry of Health today responded to Kiky’s comment. While the ministry acknowledged that Indonesia needs legislative reforms to address its shortcomings in medicine, such as in medical equipment and manpower, it said that Kiky was wrong to generalize that Indonesia’s doctors are inferior to their peers abroad.

“We must be sure, certain, of our country’s potential. Our doctors are great, our hospitals are good,” the ministry’s spokesman Mohammad Syahril told Detik today.

The Indonesian Doctors Association (IDI) echoed those sentiments.

“Hospitals [in Indonesia] are reluctant to buy state-of-the-art equipment because they are expensive and highly taxed. This is the government’s homework. IDI has appealed to the president to give tax breaks to medicine and medical equipment,” IDI Deputy Chairman Slamet Budiarto said.

“This is why patients run to Penang, Singapore. Medical services there are more comprehensive because advanced medical equipment allows doctors to freely use diagnostic tools. In terms of quality, the doctors are the same [as in Indonesia]. They have the same skills.”

Reader Interactions


  1. this …Budiarto certainly is joking when he said: In terms of quality, the doctors are the same………….
    Everyone knows this.

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