Students to march for asylum seeker and refugee health

Amanda Lyons

6/04/2018 2:05:09 PM

Medical students will march on Saturday in support of refugee and asylum seeker health, calling on the Federal Government to provide greater transparency about medical treatment on Manus Island.

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Dr Kate Walker, Chair of the RACGP’s Refugee Health Specific Interests network, has described the situation with refugee patients, ‘A humanitarian issue, not a political one’. (Image: Nick Ralph)

‘As future doctors, we have a responsibility to advocate for and speak out about issues that affect the health and wellbeing of all, particularly those without a voice,’ Adele Evans, Project Coordinator for Australian Medical Students’ Association (AMSA) Crossing Borders, the AMSA Global Health Project, told newsGP.
AMSA helped facilitate the ‘Detention harms health – Student march for refugees’ march, to take place in Sydney on 7 April, to show its concern for the health and wellbeing of more than 500 refugees and asylum seekers who remain on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island after the closure of the offshore processing centre last year.
Dr Kate Walker, Chair of the RACGP’s Refugee Health Specific Interests network, is supportive of the march. She believes it reflects the principles that underpin general practice.
‘As GPs, we are interested in a holistic view to health, including the social determinants of health, so we have a role in society to advocate for people who are marginalised and experiencing poorer health outcomes,’ Dr Walker told newsGP.
‘This is a humanitarian issue, not a political one.’
AMSA has been in contact with the Department of Home Affairs, calling for practical steps towards healthcare solutions on Manus Island, such as allowing an independent medical body to assess asylum seekers’ health and determine whether medical facilities meet Australian standards.
Dr Walker shares AMSA’s concerns about the Federal Government’s lack of transparency in relation to the healthcare on Manus Island.
‘The lack of consistent independent oversight and access to information about the current conditions and services on Manus Island is extremely concerning,’ she said.
Dr Walker offered some clear criteria for meeting the healthcare needs of the asylum seekers on Manus Island.
‘Whilst awaiting resettlement, all individuals and families should be able to access quality healthcare, adequate housing and social supports, including mental health and torture and trauma services,’ Dr Walker said.
‘There should also be independent oversight of the quality of healthcare provided to these individuals, which would enable a fair complaint escalation process if individuals feel that their health needs are not being met.

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