Today the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre and National Justice Project are giving evidence to the Senate hearing on the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill 2019.
The ASRC played a leading role in the passing of the Medevac law and is deeply concerned that repealing the legislation will lead to further harm, possible deaths and return to a failed transfer system rife with political interference.
Last week, the ASRC submitted to the Senate Inquiry in partnership with the National Justice Project, with whom we worked with to legally intervene to force 360 medical evacuations of critically sick men, women and children from Manus and Nauru over three years.
At least two people died from medical neglect because of the government’s lengthy delays and blocks to this process.
The Government’s overt and deliberately obstructionist conduct is the reason why whistleblowers, doctors, medical bodies, community groups and organisations rallied together to find a legislative solution in Medevac to save lives.
The ASRC / NJP submission recommends that the bill be opposed in its entirety, because:
- The only way to guarantee an independent, robust and orderly medically led process is to retain the Medevac Law.
- In 2018, approximately 150 matters were run by over 100 pro bono lawyers, resulting in 50 applications filed (with the balance settled out of court), requiring an extraordinary number of pro bono legal hours, and a significant demand on court resources.
- In those matters medical experts had assessed that our clients suffered from very serious and urgent medical conditions such as: high risk of renal failure, respiratory failure leading to death, peritonitis causing death, acute psychiatric disorders, haemorrhage requiring massive transfusion,neonatal death and maternal death.
- The Minister appeared to consistently respond to cases from a position of skepticism and disbelief, rather than genuine concern for health and safety.
- While over 130 people have been approved for transfer for medical care under the Medevac Law, there are still critically sick people in Papua New Guinea and Nauru who require a timely doctor led process to assess their medical needs and transfer requests.
- As reported by the Independent Health Panel, “11 in the first quarter of 2019 the majority of the 8,260 medical consultations in Nauru were for mental health problems, with no access to appropriate inpatient psychiatric care.”
An independent, doctor-led audit has found that 75% of patients held offshore have significant unmet health needs with an average of 4.6 health conditions per person.
This is a direct consequence of the conditions of indefinite detention in which they have been forced to live, and the accumulation of untreated illnesses due to medical neglect over many years.
CEO Kon Karapanagiotidis said:
“The government is trying desperately to take back power to politically interfere in medical evacuations for critically sick people, all of whom its own policy failure of offshore processing is responsible for medically neglecting.
The decisions on how to treat sick refugees should be in the hands of doctors not politicians.
The Minister is being disingenuous and dishonest about the merits of Medevac, while he consistently attacks its integrity and need, in practice he agrees with over 80% of Doctor’s decisions and approves them at first instance.
The alarm bell of security risk that he keeps ringing is pure fearmongering as no one has had their Medevac application refused on security grounds.”
Principal Solicitor, Prof George Newhouse said:
It shouldn’t take lawyers and caseworkers to get men, women and young children access to basic healthcare.
Medevac provides an a-political mechanism for sick people to get the life saving medical treatment.
If politicians and bureaucrats are allowed to make medical decisions again, we fear another person will die.”
Triage Manager at the ASRC for Medical Evacuation Response Group Michael Hoey said:
“The government re-detaining people in prisons and moving them to Port Moresby will worsen mental and physical health of already traumatised and highly vulnerable people.
The need for Medevac will only increase with the government’s continuing arbitrary and politically influenced mismanagement of offshore processing.”
Manus detainee, Shaminda Kanapathi said:
“In PIH hospital Port Moresby the refugees are treated very badly, I have been hearing about a doctor that mistreats men when they go to PIH hospital.
For example, when someone is admitted in PIH hospital the doctor would come and say ” what are you doing here ? You’re not sick this hospital is for sick people not you, you want to go to Australia? This kind of abuse keeps happening in PIH hospital that I have been told of by the detainees.
Since the medevac bill passed, the men feel so stressed because they have been desperately waiting for their treatment for many years.
Now it’s getting worse for the remaining people who have been here for six years.”
Read full ASRC NJP submission.
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact: Marcella Brassett – 0411 026 142Leave a reply →