RACGP provides in-principle support for continuance of Medevac laws

Doug Hendrie

28/08/2019 4:25:35 PM

The RACGP expressed support for the intent of the Medevac legislation at a Senate hearing this week.

Lara Roeske
Dr Lara Roeske laid out the RACGP’s position on Medevac at a Senate hearing this week.

Prominent GPs have warned of the risk of refugee deaths if the legislation is successfully repealed.  
Dr Lara Roeske, Chair of RACGP Specific Interest, told the Senate’s legal and constitutional affair committee of the RACGP’s belief in universal access to healthcare, and its support for the intent of the Medevac legislation and Independent Health Advice Panel.
She told the committee the RACGP ‘supports the intent of legislation that allows the temporary transfer of people to Australia to receive appropriate medical, surgical and psychiatric care, that otherwise would not be available to them’.
The Medevac bill – formally known as the Urgent Medical Transfer Bill – states that if a refugee or asylum seeker needs urgent medical attention, two independent doctors can recommend temporary transfer to Australia.
To date, 72 people have been transferred to Australia under the legislation.
But the Australian Government is determined to reverse the Medevac bill, which was originally driven by then-MP Dr Kerryn Phelps with support from Labor, the Greens and crossbench senators.
The Government repeal bill, the Migration Amendment (Repairing Medical Transfers) Bill, has passed the lower house.
Also presenting to the committee this week was GP Dr Sara Townend, a refugee health advocate who started an influential petition to help a dying refugee in Nauru.
Dr Townend is one of three lead doctors overseeing the Medevac program, together with Dr Neela Janakiramanan and Dr Natalie Thurtle.
In their submission, the three doctors warned that scrapping the law could lead to refugee deaths.
In a submission to the inquiry, Dr Townend, stated that of the 338 patients who had applied for medical assessment and who had reliable and objective medical notes, 82% experienced depression and 57% suicidal ideation.
In his speech supporting the bill to repeal Medevac, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton stated there had been a ‘marked increase in self-harm behaviours in regional processing countries’.
‘Many of these acts are undertaken for the explicit purpose of manipulating the system and gaining access to our country. This bill removes the motivation for transferees to engage in this dangerous behaviour,’ he said.
When the Medevac bill was introduced last year, the RACGP called for all sides of politics to support Dr Phelps’ push to put decisions about medical treatment of asylum seekers and refugees ‘back in the hands of doctors’.
Dr Kate Walker, Chair of the RACGP Specific Interests Refugee Health network, said last year that ‘professional independent medical opinions about the healthcare needs of the asylum seekers must be respected’.
The Medevac push came after the Queensland coroner found that the death of Iranian asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei was preventable and linked to problems with healthcare provided under Australia’s offshore immigration detention system.

asylum seeker health medevac refugee health

newsGP weekly poll When is your next available patient appointment?

newsGP weekly poll When is your next available patient appointment?



Login to comment

Yep, Mr Dutton   29/08/2019 8:18:47 AM

Trying to flee from war torn & troubled areas and then traveling in boats or crossing borders in dangerous conditions is too risky, so Australia should pass the legislation to not allow any refugees to enter our country at all. This will discourage potential refugees to embark upon "risky and dangerous" journey to Australia (to try to flee imminent rape/death/torture/famine/destruction of their families and themselves ). Mr Dutton will agree with me.