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30 Nov 2017

In a meeting late yesterday with AMA President, Dr Michael Gannon, the Immigration Minister, Peter Dutton, ruled out facilitating an AMA–led group of independent medical experts to assess the health and wellbeing of the asylum seeker men on Manus Island – but pledged to enhance the levels of health care and the flow of information about the health of asylum seekers on Manus and more broadly.

Dr Gannon said that Minister Dutton congratulated the AMA on its strong advocacy to ensure the best possible health care for asylum seekers. The Minister remains committed to the services being provided by contractor, International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).

“Our discussions were open and robust, and focused on the health and wellbeing of the asylum seekers,” Dr Gannon said.

“It is not the AMA’s job to delve into immigration policy.

“I explained to the Minister that the AMA Federal Council, the membership, and the whole medical profession hold broad views about the treatment of asylum seekers, but the overwhelming view of the AMA leadership and doctors who have contacted the AMA directly and indirectly is that we have an ethical responsibility to look after the physical and mental health of asylum seekers.

“These people have endured incredible hardship, both in their homeland and in their current situation. They are now in the care of the Australian Government.

“It is the AMA’s long-held position that it is our responsibility to ensure the health and wellbeing of these people, and provide them with a safe and hygienic living environment.

“That is why the AMA has advocated strongly for independent health assessments of the men embroiled in the current crisis on Manus Island.

“Unfortunately, despite our strong arguments, the Government has at this stage rejected our request.”

Dr Gannon said that Minister Dutton promised the AMA that he would act immediately to activate enhancements to the healthcare services and the transparency of information regarding the health of asylum seekers, on a case by case basis.

“Minister Dutton said he has asked his Department to fast track the replacement of the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) position, vacated by Dr John Brayley, and ensure the position is filled by a suitably qualified and experienced doctor,” Dr Gannon said.

“Dr Brayley was an outstanding CMO. Our dealings with him were professional and reassuring. We need a similar level of openness and confidence restored as soon as possible.

“The Minister gave assurances that the Trauma and Torture Counselling Service on Manus Island will be restored soon.

“And he has promised that the AMA will have no problems maintaining clear and open dialogue with IHMS to discuss the range and quality of health services available to asylum seekers, and we will be directly involved in identifying any service gaps that may exist.

“It is disappointing that we cannot send an independent medical team immediately to Manus, but we welcome the Minister’s pledges of greater transparency from IHMS and the efforts to improve the health service arrangements.

“The Minister said that he, too, was committed to ensuring the health and wellbeing of the asylum seekers who are the responsibility of the Australian Government.

“I told the Minister that the AMA would remain a strong advocate for asylum seekers, and that we would call out any injustices or any weakening of our human rights obligations,” Dr Gannon said.

30 November 2017

CONTACT:        John Flannery           02 6270 5477 / 0419 494 761

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Published: 30 Nov 2017