On the 1st of March, the Medevac Bill became law, after being passed by Labor, the Greens, and the crossbench in the House of Representatives and Senate.

The purpose of the bill was simple – for doctors in Australia to be able to access critically sick people to save lives. 

Our Government indefinitely detains around 900 people in offshore processing, where they have been waiting for freedom for six years. 

Aziz Abdul Adam, a man detained on Manus for six years said:

“the situation on Manus island is now so bad that many men will be left permanently disabled or need extensive medical and psychiatric care to recover from indefinite detention.”

Medical facilities on Nauru and Manus fail to properly treat complex and deteriorating health of people who are experiencing  trauma, 12 people have died in offshore processing. 

Doctors and organisations, including the ASRC have warned of a medical and mental health crisis and the risk of more people dying. 

People experiencing physical and mental health symptoms that require urgent medical treatment range from young adults to people over 60.

People suffer from a wide range of treatable physical and mental illnesses:

  • cardiac and respiratory conditions
  • kidney stones, abdominal conditions like gastritis
  •  internal and external infections, joint conditions
  • gynaecological and urological conditions 
  • chronic and acute pain conditions.
  • repeated incidents of self-harm and suicidality, 
  • mood disorders and symptoms relating to ongoing trauma and post trauma.

If the first diagnosis of a physical condition is medically neglected, people develop mental health conditions over time parallel to intensifying physical symptoms.

“The Medevac Bill gives doctors a lifeline to assess sick refugees. We have been working rapidly, and around the clock, to ensure critically ill people are assessed by doctors for transfer as quickly as possible.

 

After almost 6 years the demand for assistance with applications has been huge.”, said Dr Townend.

 

The Medevac Process

If two Australian doctors agree that a patient needs to come to Australia for medical attention, they recommend the transfer to the Home Affairs department.

If Minister of Home Affairs, Peter Dutton doesn’t support the transfer, then a panel of medical experts, including some appointed by the government, review the decision. 

The minister still has the final say, and can block a transfer on the grounds of security.

The Medevac law  puts time limits around processing transfers for urgent traumatic medical events. That means that people requiring critical medical attention won’t need to wait for weeks or even months just because of a slow bureaucratic process, which was the case in the past years, with people dying due to the wait.

More than 40 applications have been processed for medical transfer and around 80 people have been brought to Australia since Medevac law passed, with the government transferring sick people outside the process due to political pressure from Medevac. 

Lives are saved when the government and the medical community work together to find the best solution to get sick people treatment.

However,  Minister Dutton and members of the Morrison Government are threatening to repeal Medevac in Parliaments first sitting weeks.

 

More Resources

The Medical Evacuation Response Group (MERG) –  a group of organisations, doctors, lawyers and case workers working together to deliver Medevac: https://merg.org.au/

 

Latest news on Medevac 

25 June – Guardian Peter Dutton has manipulated the truth so much, how can Australians trust him?

22 June – SMH Medevac panel overturns two cases in four months, despite ‘floodgate’ fears

21 June – SMH ‘Beyond shameful’: Activists dispute Dutton’s medevac figures

16 June – SBS Labor withholds support for repeal of Medevac bill

 

For more information, look at the ASRC’s Media Releases about the Medevac bill:

6 December, 2018  – The ASRC backs the bill

5 February – Human rights groups unite in rejecting Government’s medical panel proposal

8 February  – People offshore waiting two years for medical transfer

12 February  – House passes Medevac

13 February – Senate passes Medevac

1 March  – Medical Evacuation Response Group created

23 March  – Medical crisis on Manus and Nauru escalates