Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group concerned by MP David Gillespie's support of Medevac Bill repeal

The most common reason for refugee consultation on Manus and Nauru is for psychological reasons.
The most common reason for refugee consultation on Manus and Nauru is for psychological reasons.

THE Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group is disappointed Lyne MP David Gillespie has supported the repeal of medevac legislation.

The group says if passed through the Senate, it will obstruct the urgent medical evacuation of refugees who have now suffered six years of neglect on Nauru and Manus Island.

Dr Gillespie says a federal law regarding medical treatment for refugees and asylum seekers sends the message the government is not in control and would encourage more people to come to Australia illegally.

Under the medevac laws, an independent panel of expert medical professionals have the final say on all off-shore refugees seeking mainland treatment, unless the refugee poses a risk to national security or has a serious criminal conviction.

Dr Gillespie and other politicians from the Morrison Government want the final say on offshore medical treatment to return to the Minister for Immigration. He added the system wasn't broken before the medevac laws came into play.

Politicians from the Coalition Government argue refugees and asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru already have access to adequate healthcare.

Compassion and common sense seems to alien to this government.

Kathryn Parle

Refugee Support Groups are anxious the current opportunity for medical evacuation from Nauru and Manus Island may be eliminated, spokesperson Kathryn Parle said.

"Compassion and common sense seems to alien to this government," Ms Parle said.

"While it is true that medical treatment is available in these remote places, the fact is that staff work on a fly in/fly out basis, which precludes consistent care.

"Deaths by medical neglect and from suicides as a result of despair and hopelessness are well documented.

"If, as Dr Gillespie states, the care provided off shore is truly adequate, there would not be the level of attempted suicides and medical failures that have occurred.

"Dr Gillespie seems to fear Australia giving a message of having humanitarian practices. It is disturbing that a doctor fears giving care to people in need. He has also described medical service provision in remote parts of Australia as being less functional than that provided offshore.

"This is a bizarre justification for neglect, which has been extensively reported by medical and mental health specialists who have witnessed and reported upon the impact of offshore detention. What does that say about provision of services in Australia?"

Mental health conditions are behind the vast majority of refugee medical admissions on Manus Island and Nauru, an independent panel has found.

More than 40 people at the regional processing centre on Nauru were admitted for treatment in the first three months of 2019, according to the independent health advice panel overseeing medical transfers.

Some refugees and asylum seekers were admitted more than once, with the longest stay being 44 days.

In addition, there were 8260 medical consultations to the 237 people on Nauru between January and March.

In Papua New Guinea, there were 1134 primary health consultations, 472 mental health consultations and 375 specialist consultations performed on Manus Island in the first three months of the year.

There were 21 admissions to the Lorengau General Hospital for 17 individuals.

Ms Parle said the paperwork required and the Minister's powers do not make it a straightforward process and many requests are being delayed and refused.

"Dr Gillespie says that being able to walk around in the day, and being locked up at night on Manus Island is suitable treatment for people who have been found to be owed protection from persecution," she said.

"The result is that lives and skills are being wasted, when people came with so much hope to rebuild their lives after devastating and traumatic experiences including torture."

The Senate will consider the Medevac Bill repeal after a parliamentary committee examines it and reports back in October.

The Mid North Coast Refugee Support Group will hold its AGM on Saturday, October 12 at 10.30am at the Wauchope Arts Hall.

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