Department of Home Affairs needs doctor as Chief Medical Officer: RACGP President

Paul Hayes

5/04/2018 12:26:25 PM

The fact a non-doctor has been acting as the Department of Home Affairs’ Chief Medical Officer since October 2017 is untenable and neglects the health and safety of asylum seeker and refugee patients, RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel told newsGP.

Dr Bastian Seidel is concerned the health of refugees and asylum seekers may be neglected without a doctor in the role of Chief Medical Officer. (Image: Hass Hassaballa)
Dr Bastian Seidel is concerned the health of refugees and asylum seekers may be neglected without a doctor in the role of Chief Medical Officer. (Image: Hass Hassaballa)

‘Asylum seekers and refugees have now been left without a dedicated medical advocate in the Department of Home Affairs for over six months. This is unacceptable,’ Dr Bastian Seidel told newsGP. ‘This role must be filled urgently to address the health and safety of these vulnerable people.’
The Department of Home Affairs’ First Assistant Secretary, Elizabeth Hampton, replaced previous Chief Medical Officer, Dr John Brayley, in an acting capacity in October last year. The vacant role was advertised in late 2017; however, applications closed on 31 January 2018 and no appointment appears imminent.
When newsGP contacted the Department of Home Affairs about the current status of the role, a spokesperson replied, ‘The process to fill the position of Chief Medical Officer is ongoing’.
While she receives advice from up to 12 healthcare practitioners, questions remain about the efficacy of Hampton advising the department on the health issues of asylum seekers and refugees.
‘These are some of the most vulnerable and distressed patients healthcare professionals are likely to encounter,’ Dr Seidel said. ‘It beggars belief that the Department of Home Affairs continues to drag its feet on appointing an appropriate professional for the role of Chief Medical Officer.
‘The Australian Government needs to act in order to uphold its ethical obligations in accordance with international law and human rights standards.’
Once a new Chief Medical Officer is appointed, Dr Seidel is eager to provide the RACGP’s expert assistance and advice.
‘We look forward to working with a new Chief Medical Officer to address the health and safety issues in Australia’s offshore detention centres,’ he said.

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John Gyorki   6/04/2018 6:47:26 AM

Please give me a bit more on the description of the job.

Dr Bernadette Mackay   6/04/2018 7:40:25 AM

While books, plays, museums and multiple other forms of communication relay the horror of the extermination of the Jews in the past, our government quietly,cruelly and so very deceptively continues it's brutality and evil destruction of the mental and physical health of incarcerated refugees.Thank you for again highlighting the truth

newsGP   6/04/2018 8:43:52 AM

Thanks for your comment, John. More information can be found at

Bin Shi   6/04/2018 9:17:13 AM

I am a GP, I have general registration with AHPRA, I have Australian citizenship. I live in Melbourne. I am going to apply for RACGP fellowship exam. What are the doctor’s job requirements ? I would like to get more information about this position.

Mai Maddisson   6/04/2018 9:37:14 AM

I have two comments
1. Many of the past refugees (2 large cohorts-- the World War 2 group, and the Vietnam conflict group) who have assimilated over the decades are now married into families of Australian descent and there maybe doctor relatives who have shared a dossier of experience with someone who nominally seems to have no refugee life insights nor a visible medical degree. An ongoing communication with such doctors is far more valuable than the mere letters MB.BS.
2. The uglier part. I am one of the Post WW 2 cohort who repeatedly put up their hand to be helpful over the latter decades to be told by my colleagues basically "bu--er off”, “What would you know”. I arrived here as a seven year old in 1949.
The disillusionment took me further afield to become involved in the Children in War Studies based overseas. I was warmly welcomed by them and have presented at their conferences, written papers and have three published books which live in one of our RACGP libraries, two also in the National and my state library and in several academic institutions in Europe. I am still in contact with the group who like me, are aging.
Among one of my projects was the effecting ten years ago, of a reunion of the kids who had lived in the same camp as I had. We reflected on how things had been for us and how we saw that half century of life: Among the conclusions that short-term gain can effect long term loss, paraphrased -act in haste and repent at leisure. We remain in contact by e-mail.
Oz had a goldmine of material and a willing person putting up their hand and shunned that hand. There are many of my cohort who I feel sure would have been more than willing to lend a hand of relevant experience had the attitude not been "What would you know".
If the medical powers that be tell their willing and experienced colleagues to 'bug--r off' how long are those colleagues expected to hang around wanting to help.
Likewise, many of my comments in blogs have never reached publication in the provided spaces.
It sounds to me more like there is a form of segregation happening within our own ranks.

Mai Maddisson   6/04/2018 12:35:22 PM

Dr MacKay.
I read your comments with utter disbelief. How can you possibly compare the CONTRIVED brutality of the Reich, which had its beginnings in the mid-1930s. Through my eyes what you have written is truly degrading for those who endured the Holocaust events: There is NO comparison.
I have a right to make that comment as I spent the first 8.5 years of my life in a war zone and in the refugee/DP camps. Compared with the Jewish experience life in refugee camps is a picnic. Have you ever visited the Dachau camp which has been refurbished for those who want the true facts? I vaguely recall the history of my toddlerhood and vague imagery of possible camps, and have visited Dachau to clarify my imagery of the past.
And I have a right to speak because I am an accident of the German troop march and have done lots of reading into both destinies. My heart still bleeds for what the Jewish people endured and regret that my forefathers were part of that ugly event.
The kids from the camps! Among my friends from the camps are Emeritus Professors in many disciplines: Many of them look back on the time as making them more resourceful and grateful for what they finally were to access.
Please Dr Mackay do be careful to consider the plight of those who truly have something to grieve. This lot of refugees, like my lot did not have a cosy existence, and this lot have not known desperate hunger, but our lots are/were trivial to that of the Jewish people.
Please don’t emotionally capitalise on that ugly event again.

Dr. A Q Aslam   21/05/2018 10:44:06 AM

I am a GP, working in Adelaide.
Had FRACGP in 2006.
Speak English, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi
Please let me know more about job, overseas trained doctor and worked in Africa for 7-8 years.