Catholic church turns pastoral care centre in Jakarta into COVID-19 ward

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An Indonesian pastor, Yustinus Ardianto, 47, leads a prayer for a victim who passed away due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a hospital, as cases surge in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 22, 2021. Picture taken July 22, 2021. REUTERS/Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana

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JAKARTA, July 27 (Reuters) - The Catholic Church has converted a pastoral centre in Jakarta into an isolation ward to care for COVID-19 patients in the Indonesian capital as it battles an devastating second wave of the pandemic that has overrun hospitals.

Nearly 90 nuns, priests and other carers are looking after around 60 patients in the Samadi centre, said Father Yustinus Ardianto, a Catholic priest in charge at the facility.

"For me, the healing process is not just about medicines, but also a comfortable environment," said Father Yustinus, who has himself recovered from the coronavirus.

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Encircling a central garden, there are 75 rooms at Samadi with most of the patients suffering milder COVID-19 symptoms. Around 70 people have been treated and returned home, Father Yustinus said.

Funded by the Jakarta Roman Catholic Archdiocese and donations, it accepts people of any faith in a country that is predominantly Muslim but has large Christian, Hindu, Buddhist and other religious minorities.

"We're brothers and sisters to each other," he said, adding that patients were mostly from lower-income backgrounds and contributed what they could towards the treatment cost of at least five million rupiah ($345.18) per patient.

"We accept patients here as long as first there are rooms available, second it is still possible to treat their condition," added Father Yustinus, who had to anoint and give the last rites to another priest suffering from the coronavirus via Zoom before he succumbed to the disease.

Hospitals, particularly on the islands of Java and Bali, have been flooded with patients during the past month, as COVID-19 infection rates and deaths have been driven to record high by the highly infectious Delta variant. read more

Florentina Suharni Caturwati, a teacher and a patient at Samadi, said authorities should try and find more similar facilities to use as isolation wards during the pandemic.

Father Yustinus said the staff running Samadi knew of the dangers of getting infected themselves.

"It's the risk of our service," he said.

($1 = 14,485.0000 rupiah)

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Additional reporting by Yuddy Cahya Budiman and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Editing by Ed Davies and Jane Wardell

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