The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age contacted 14 private hospitals and clinics in Jakarta and on the holiday island of Bali to ascertain the rates being charged.
Private hospitals in Jakarta including the Columbia Asia Hospital, the Gading Pluit, Pertamina hospital, RSCM Kencana and the MRCCC Siloam Hospital were charging between $180 and $250 for a PCR test.
The minimum wage in Jakarta is about $400 per month – and slightly lower in other provinces – meaning that a worker would conceivably have to spend half their monthly wage, or more, to get the test if they are asymptomatic.
Prices rise considerably if the patient wants their result back sooner: MRCCC Siloam Hospital, in south Jakarta, charged $650 for the results to be returned in 24 hours, rather than two to three days, and up to $1450 for results back in 12 hours.
Similarly, Siloam Kebon Jeruk in West Jakarta charged $450 to return the result in 24 hours, rather than three days, while RSCM Kencana private hospital charged up to $550 for two PCR tests, a blood test and a thorax x-ray.
In Bali, Unud Hospital charged $100 for a PCR test and Siloam private hospital charged $250.
Less accurate rapid tests, which detect antibodies for COVID-19, are more affordable and range in price from $15 to $60, even though the government recently ordered the price be fixed at $15.
University of Indonesia epidemiologist Pandu Riono said the government should step in and regulate the prices. He questioned the testing capacity in the private sector while the government was struggling to make more tests available.
He said it was “very unethical” for health providers to seek to profit from testing in a pandemic and “manipulate people’s fears”.
“The government should please open its eyes to regulate this. These are national resources, when you have low capacity in testing, you need to ask public and private [hospitals] to help increase the testing capacity [of the country].”
“Why do we let someone who has testing resources do differently to the national response?”
Human Rights Watch Indonesia’s Andreas Harsono said that “of course there is now excess testing capacity”.
“The basic issue here is access to healthcare, the right to healthcare. The government should be able to protect those rights, but in a pandemic of this scale the answer is not that easy. Obviously many countries can’t cope with this pandemic.”
Indonesia reported 1282 new cases on Monday to take the country’s tally to 76,981. Infection rates regularly hover around 1600 per day and rose as high as 2657 last Thursday, while the death toll of 3656 is the highest in south-east Asia.
In Australia, people are not charged for coronavirus testing while in the United States, major diagnostic labs are charging about $140, according to The New York Times, though a lab in Texas charged as much as $3300.
Testing rates In Indonesia are at around 3700 per million people, far behind neighbouring countries including Malaysia (25,000), Thailand (8600), Singapore (148,000) and Australia (114,000).
The capital, Jakarta, has ramped up PCR testing to about 21,000 per million people, but at least eight of the country’s provinces are testing less than 1000 people per million.
Comment was sought from the Indonesian government about whether it would consider setting price limits on PCR tests, whether private hospitals were charging too much and whether the government would look to make use of private labs to ramp up testing.
With Karuni Rompies and Amilia Rosa
James Massola is south-east Asia correspondent based in Jakarta. He was previously chief political correspondent, based in Canberra. He has been a Walkley and Quills finalist on three occasions, won a Kennedy Award for outstanding foreign correspondent and is the author of The Great Cave Rescue.