Students renew calls to give Manus Island asylum seekers quality medical services

Paul Hayes

25/05/2018 1:31:46 PM

Australian medical students have again voiced their concern for the health of asylum seekers, reiterating their calls for the independent medical assessment of people detained on Manus Island.

The UN Refugee Agency recently found Lorengau General Hospital on Manus Island was 33% over capacity. (Image: Supplied)
The UN Refugee Agency recently found Lorengau General Hospital on Manus Island was 33% over capacity. (Image: Supplied)

‘The serious health consequences of any form of detention, especially surrounding mental health, cannot be denied,’ Adele Evans, Project Coordinator of Australian Medical Students’ Association Crossing Borders (AMSA), said.
‘The healthcare services on Manus Island do not provide the specialist care required to manage the deteriorating mental health of the asylum seekers currently detained. Services – such as counselling for trauma and torture – need to be reinstated in these detention centres to prevent any further deterioration in detainees’ mental health.’
Ms Evans’ comments come following the recent apparent suicide of a male refugee detained on Manus Island, who died after jumping from a moving bus.
‘We are concerned at reports that the man suffered from psychotic episodes, resulting from chronic seizures that were not adequately managed,’ she said. ‘These deaths are preventable through the provision of adequate and appropriate healthcare, for which Australia is ethically and legally responsible.’
The RACGP has previously signed a letter urging Australia’s political leaders to improve healthcare for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.
‘This is not about politics. This is about the health and safety of a group of very helpless people,’ RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said.
‘As medical practitioners, we cannot sit back knowing the standard of care received by those seeking asylum in Australia is anything but acceptable.’
An Amnesty International report on Manus Island release earlier this month was scathing in its findings, criticising the termination of mental health services on the island despite the fact its refugee population has one of the highest rates of mental health issues in the world.
‘Last year two refugees committed suicide in Manus Island, illustrating the terrible price of confining vulnerable people to remote detention centres,’ said Graham Thom, Amnesty International Australia refugee coordinator, told The Guardian.
‘In the wake of these tragedies, Australia has inexplicably cut counselling and trauma services, just one of a raft of changes which will make it even harder for refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea to access healthcare.’
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) also recently found the services at the 120-bed Lorengau General Hospital on Manus Island to be inadequate. According to the UNHCR, the hospital was 33% over capacity and lacking crucial medical infrastructure, such as ventilators and medical incinerator, and basic products, such as intravenous fluids. In addition, half of medical specialist positions (surgeon, anaesthetist and obstetrician) and 43% of nursing positions were unfilled.

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cordell vardy   3/06/2018 1:27:31 PM

I think the whole approach to refugees needs rethinking