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 healthcare service provided by PT Lontar Papyrus Pulp & Paper Industries (Lontar Papyrus) in partnership with a local healthcare office in Tebing Tinggi. The speedboat regularly carries medical staff to remote villages that usually take a day to reach by road.
“In the old days (before the floating clinic existed) 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 now is call them and ask for the boat to take us to any designated place.”
Sjam said that the distance between the main road and the river bank is “very far,” therefore walking would take hours, if not most of the day until the finally reached the destination. But now with the boat – purchased and maintained by Lontar Papyrus – slashes the travel time to minutes.
“Just imagine how hard it would be if Lontar Papyrus was not here to assist us,” she said.
Rudiansyah SKM, head of the nearby local healthcare office 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.
“We provide more than the medicine,” he said. “We provide access to live a healthier lifestyle.”