Australian government ignored refugee transfer advice from its own doctors for up to five years

Date: 
February, 2019
Country: 
Australia

Asylum seekers and refugees are waiting as long as five years for specialist medical treatment even when it has been formally recommended by the Australian government’s contracted doctors, new data has revealed.

Support workers and medical groups have accused the government of maintaining a “dangerous and sometimes fatal” system of care on Manus Island and Nauru, as MPs prepare to vote on a medical transfers bill which could see up to 1,000 people access long-awaited treatment within weeks.

The analyses of patient data and letters to MPs calling for urgent and dramatic change come as Médecins Sans Frontières launch a telehealth service to resume treating the patients it was forced to leave behind when it was kicked off Nauru by the Nauruan government last year.

Aggregated data from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, seen by Guardian Australia, revealed dozens of people are still waiting for medical transfer years after it was recommended by doctors employed by the federal government’s contracted health provider, IHMS.

A medical transfer was recommended by at least one IHMS doctor for half of the sample, as they had been diagnosed with medical conditions that could not be treated on site and needed specialist care.

“Medical transfer requests are made sparsely and reluctantly because doctors know they will be blocked by the department,” a former IHMS doctor, Peter Young, said.

The data revealed waits of mostly two to three years, but included six people who have waited more than four years for transfer.

Two men on Manus Island, aged under 40, were first recommended for transfer more than five years ago. One suffers chronic migraines and headaches, epilepsy and blurred vision, and requires a neurosurgical or neurological consultation, the data sheet said.

The other requires orthopaedic treatment, according to the data sheet, and suffers an anterior cruciate ligament injury, arthritis and mental illness. The data, drawn from IHMS medical records of 50 of its 70 casework clients on Manus Island and Nauru, provided a snapshot of what was a far bigger problem, the ASRC said.

Source: The Guardian