Source: Médecins Sans Frontières –
SYDNEY, 23 August 2019 – The Nauruan Government’s unwillingness to authorise timely medical transfers or even tele-health consultations from Australia handicaps the ‘Medevac’ referral process, is against humanitarian ethics, and international law, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) will tell a Senate Committee next week.
MSF’s submission to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs details how a mental health crisis has been developing on Nauru for years. The assessment comes in response to the proposed repeal of medical transfer provisions in the Migration Act 1958, the so-called ‘Medevac Bill’.
MSF psychiatrists and psychologists were among the only independent medical professionals to work directly with patients on Nauru until being forced out in October 2018. MSF’s findings after 11 months of operating an independent mental health treatment service on Nauru was that curative treatment for the overwhelming majority of cases was not possible whilst the key stressors of uncertainty, isolation and family separation on Nauru remained.
“Our December 2018 report ‘Indefinite Despair‘, which we have submitted to the Senate Inquiry along with key recommendations, details how existing psychiatric care facilities on Nauru were inadequate for the level of need we saw. Médecins Sans Frontières continues to call for the immediate evacuation of all refugees and asylum seekers contained on Nauru and Manus Island to a place of safety where they can rebuild their lives,” says Dr Stewart Condon, President, MSF Australia.
“Until then, patients should have unfettered access to consult with medical doctors, and medical doctors should remain at liberty to offer medical advice and opinion, including recommending medical evacuation to Australia when necessary.”
MSF data and medical experience with patients on Nauru demonstrates that dangerous mentalhealth impacts are a predictable consequence of the operation of Australia’s border protectionpolicies in so far as they continue to keep people indefinitely contained on Nauru.
In the submission to the Senate Committee, MSF outlines the following recommendations:
1) To be consistent with medical ethics, humanitarian ethics, and international law, all willing refugees and asylum seekers must be transferred to a place where they can find permanent resettlement with access to appropriate medical and mental health care as soon as possible.
2) Whilst the current policy of containment of asylum seekers and refugees on Nauru (and PNG) remains, the Medevac referral system must be retained and strengthened to ensure patients receive timely and appropriate medical care.
3) To ensure the proper functioning of the Medevac referral system the Government of Australia must urge the Government of Nauru to allow tele-heath consultations from Australia to Nauru to ensure all independent medical assessments can be completed and end administrative delays for those already approved for transfer to Australia.
4) To strengthen the operation of the Medevac referral system, and bring transparency to the medical impact of the offshore processing policy, the Government of Australia must ensure a prompt and thorough independent assessment of both the medical and mental health services available in PNG and Nauru, and the scope of the health problems affecting refugees and asylum seekers who remain there.Read our submission to the Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs.