The government had been blocking doctor’s requests for medical transfers to Australia and our case workers worked with lawyers to legally intervene case by case to have kids transferred before they died. Then the government announced all children will come off Nauru, including 4 to the U.S.
But the crisis continues. Currently we case manage 70 people with 215 on our waitlist, including young adults and elderly. Critical conditions range from possible stroke, urological conditions, acute pain and organ failure.
We are assisting people daily with suicidal ideation.
People have been waiting for two to three years, with some Overseas Medical Requests made by clinicians more than five years ago. Patients’ conditions have escalated in severity and complexity in the meantime.
The only way to guarantee that doctor’s requests for medical transfers are followed and not opposed every step of the way by Home Affairs, is a robust legislation guided by independent medical evidence.
The amendments to the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 clearly outline a robust medical pathway with oversight, for the urgent medical transfer of critically sick people from Manus and Nauru, something Prime Minister Morrison’s recently announced faux panel does not deliver.
Two or more treating Doctors start the process by recommending the transfer based on medical need. The Minister has twenty four hours to refuse or approve the transfer and if refused, the transfer is then referred to a nine member Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) to conduct a further clinical assessment of the person.
The IHAP consist of representatives from the Australian Medical Association, Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists and Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer.
The panel may also travel to regional processing countries to conduct monitoring and assessment activities and, or assess the adequacy of health services and support provided to people on Nauru and Manus.
The Minister can veto transfers if he/she does not believe it’s necessary to remove the person for appropriate medical assessment or treatment or if there is a negative security assessment by ASIO.
Yes, the ALP cares about Australia’s national security.
The amendments do not compel the permanent resettlement of refugees, or even their permanent transfer to Australia, do not end offshore detention, and actually do not contradict the Government’s stated policy on offshore detention.
Yet, despite all of this careful consideration, the government has kept the issue of medical treatment as its personal political stick to beat Bill Shorten with.
The government absolutely does not want to be defeated by Labor so they’re doing everything they can to scuttle the amendments, resorting to usual scare tactics, dog whistling and misleading information.
In December we saw our political system function in a rare and inspired moment, with the ALP, Greens and cross bench MPs coming to an agreement to solve the medical crisis.
It’s time to show compassion and grant dignity to people in our care. We can balance compassion and safety as a country. Our leaders must act now before another life is lost.
Kon Karapanagiotidis is CEO and founder of Asylum Seeker Resource Centre. Jana Favero is director, advocacy and campaigns for ASRC.