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19 Oct 2018

Aggressive lobbying from the AMA has sparked a groundswell of support for the urgent removal of refugee families from Nauru.

Media reports of plans to remove all asylum seeker children by the end of the year have been welcomed, but the AMA is demanding confirmation.

“If the media reports are true, this is a very significant change in policy, but it cannot be a one-off,” AMA President Dr Tony Bartone said.

“We need to see more details. We need to know if the families will be accompanying the children.

“And we need to see a legislated long-term policy to ensure that the health and wellbeing crises that occurred on Nauru never happen again – on Nauru or at any other centres run by the Australian Government.”

While the Government grapples with an onslaught of criticism over its handling of the worsening asylum seeker issue, Dr Bartone continues to pressure the highest levels of power.

Following his recent letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison, demanding a policy rethink and the urgent transfer of children and their families from Nauru, Dr Bartone has maintained the call through numerous media appearances as well as closed-door meetings.  

The Prime Minister initially dismissed the AMA’s call, but since being swamped with expressions of outrage from both inside and outside of his own party – all in the face of a potential by-election loss in Wentworth – he put on the table the prospect of refugees being resettled in New Zealand.

The New Zealand Government has repeatedly offered to take 150 asylum seekers from Nauru, but the offer has been continually met with rejection by the Australian Government.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has also received internal and community pressure over Labor’s position on asylum seekers, and so flagged a private member’s bill aimed at making medical transfers from Nauru much simpler.

This all happened in a week when Médecins Sans Frontières confirmed its people had been kicked off of Nauru, and also when the senior Australian doctor contracted by IHMS to provide medical care to the asylum seekers, Dr Nicole Montana, was removed.

Dr Bartone described the developments as “extremely concerning” and pointed to “crisis upon crisis” developing on the island.

“It highlights the confusion and chaos around the medical treatment being provided to a group of very vulnerable people and various stages of medical care required on their behalf,” he told ABC Radio.

“What we’re very clear about is that doctors working on Nauru, or any other processing centre, should be able to deliver the best care, the best appropriate care required by their patients.

“These people are under the care entrusted to the Australian Government, they are responsible for their health and wellbeing while in those centres, and they need to ensure that the provision of medical care is foremost unimpeded in that process.”

Dr Bartone said the AMA was continuing its advocacy on the issue and in addition to wanting all children and their families removed from Nauru, it is calling on the Government to allow an independent delegation of Australian medical professionals to visit the island.

“We need a solution in this area. We need a solution which brings to a head this ongoing crisis. We’re talking about the lives of children, in particular, many in very, very serious states of urgent medical care requirement, and we really do need to know that every day that goes by is another day of suffering for these children in particular,” he said.

What we’re saying is the Government and the appropriate department there is remaining steadfast with the lack of transparency in the approaches, in the information sharing. The information flow is very, very slow, very, very guarded, and very, very piecemeal when it does come our way. This is unacceptable obviously.”

The AMA President has met with Shadow Immigration Minister Shayne Neumann and has said Labor’s proposal is pragmatic – in the absence of anything meaningful coming from the Government – and the AMA was backing it.

“This approach, this legislation, will seek to both reduce the bureaucratic process in this transfer, increase the transparency, increase the medical decision-making powers, and increase the independent medical oversight of the whole medical treatment process on the facilities… and ensure that vulnerable children, in particular, but anyone who requires urgent medical attention is afforded that care, appropriate care, before they get too far down the track,” Dr Bartone said.

“What we know is that if the Minister has the final decision, that needs to be independently verified by a second medical doctor within 24 hours of that decision. That both speeds up the process of the decision-making capacity and it would be a very, very brave Minister who would refuse the advice of two treating doctors, independent, and then have to report back to Parliament in a transparent way to the Australian public that that decision was not proceeded with.”

A number of the Government’s own MPs publicly broke ranks to demand action and the urgent removal of children from Nauru.

A host of other medical and health groups, as well as the Law Council of Australia, have backed the AMA’s call for the immediate removal of asylum seeker children and their families off Nauru.

CHRIS JOHNSON

 

Related story:

https://ama.com.au/ausmed/ama-demands-urgent-fix-humanitarian-emergency-nauru

 

 


Published: 19 Oct 2018