We, the undersigned organisations and individuals, are urgently calling on all Members of Parliament in the House of Representatives to support the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Bill 2018 (“The Bill”) and in particular, the ‘Urgent Medical Treatment’ amendment moved and accepted in the Senate which pertains to the temporary transfer of offshore refugee patients requiring further medical treatment to Australia at the behest of Australian medical professionals.
We note that 12 people have died in offshore detention over the last 5 years. Many of these deaths relate to untreated illnesses, with an Australian coroner finding that at least one young refugee’s death was directly related to a failure to transfer this young man to adequate tertiary medical care in Australia. The medical situation continues to be urgent for those ill men, women, and young adults who arrived in offshore detention as children more than 5 years ago.
Medical experts, including doctors who have worked on Nauru and Manus Island, have spoken repeatedly about their concerns regarding a medical transfer system that is not working, and political interference in their clinical recommendations for transfer. These doctors report widespread, significant deteriorations in physical and mental health of those held offshore. A growing number of refugees have had to be transferred to Australia by order of the Australian Federal Court for treatment after doctors’ recommendations for transfer went unheeded.
Qualified medical professionals, not politicians nor bureaucrats, should be responsible for determining whether their patients require treatment. This reflects Australia’s healthcare system, and how it should operate to anyone in our care, including those detained in offshore detention for more than 5 years.
The Bill institutes a clear, transparent, enforceable and timely process to provide a medical solution to a medical problem. The requirement for the process to be initiated on the recommendation of at least two treating doctors, with the option of case review by an expert medical panel should the Minister refuse the recommendation of the treating doctors, provides for a rigorous transfer process.
The Bill represents an important compromise across the political spectrum, it does not require the permanent resettlement of any refugee in Australia, nor does it change the system of offshore detention – but it will save lives, and ensure the Australian Government does not continue withholding treatment from critically ill individuals.
We urge all Members of Parliament to support this Bill to save lives and prevent unnecessary suffering.
Please add your organisation's name to this joint statement addressesd to all Members of Parliament in advance of them voting on the Urgent Medical Treatment Bill when Parliament returns.