Medical bodies appeal for better healthcare for asylum seekers

Paul Hayes

12/12/2017 4:19:37 PM

The RACGP has signed a letter urging Australia’s political leaders to improve healthcare for asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea.

The RACGP, RACP and RANZCP have expressed their concerns of asylum seekers’ physical and mental health. Image: AAP
The RACGP, RACP and RANZCP have expressed their concerns of asylum seekers’ physical and mental health. Image: AAP

The letter – signed by the presidents of the RACGP, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists (RANZCP) – outlines concerns regarding the asylum seekers’ healthcare access and living conditions and ongoing wellbeing, as well as impacts on Lorengau General Hospital and local community.
The colleges have urged Federal Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton, Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt, Minister for Aged Care and Minister for Indigenous Health Ken Wyatt, and Assistant Minister for Health David Gillespie to consider the physical and mental health of the men and ensure they have access to necessary healthcare.
‘Many of the men who have recently been transferred from Manus Island to Papua New Guinea will be experiencing significant trauma, so our government must ensure they receive immediate care to improve their health and wellbeing,’ RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel said. ‘This is not about politics. This is about the health and safety of a group of very helpless people.
‘As medical practitioners, we cannot sit back knowing the standard of care received by those seeking asylum in Australia is anything but acceptable.’
Following the recent closure of the Australian-run Manus Island detention centre in Papua New Guinea, nearly 400 asylum seekers refused to leave out of fears for their safety in the community staying in squalid conditions with limited access to medications. The men have since been removed from the detention centre placed in alternative accommodation in the Lorengau township.
The RACGP, RACP and RANZCP have called for:

  • improved transparency of information in the living conditions and access to healthcare services
  • expedited action to ensure suitable and secure living conditions with adequate water, power and sanitation
  • urgent action to ensure Lorengau General Hospital is sufficiently resourced to meet the needs of refugees and asylum seekers for emergency and specialised healthcare
  • appropriate rapid transfer processes for refugees and asylum seekers who are too ill to be managed on Manus Island
  • assurance that refugees and asylum seekers will continue to be provided with their medications as needed
  • urgent establishment of a fully staffed mental health service with enhanced primary care, psychological treatment, torture and trauma counselling, out-reach and emergency service first-responder support capabilities
  • regular independent assessment of the physical and mental health of refugees and asylum seekers in Papua New Guinea by suitably qualified personnel
  • the establishment of a trusted intermediary to facilitate engagement between refugees and asylum seekers with the host community and relevant authorities.

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cordell vardy   15/12/2017 9:24:39 AM

well done

Dr Peter Strickland   15/12/2017 1:49:26 PM

This is a political statement, and not a medical problem. The asylum seekers have ignored their best options, and created their own dilemma in all aspects of their lives. We all have choices, and failure to follow the correct choices is up to these adult asylum seekers, and remember ---they left behind many of their families to face the consequences of brutality in their own country (esp. the elderly), spent their monies of boat trips, have their food and accommodation free, and where the heck do they get their mobile phones from and charge them? They should integrate into PNG with work and co-operation, or go home to support their communities again. The failure of the RACGP, RACP and RANZCP is to not see accurately and honestly what is going on here --- it is all political, as the asylum seekers have the ability to make the proper decisions for themselves, and refusal to do so is immature, and they will never integrate anywhere, but simply want everything now to be free and provided by the Australian taxpayer.

Gnanasena Wijesekara Witharanage   15/12/2017 3:37:13 PM

Fantastic brave decision for the sake of the poor refugees who seek compassion and assistance from the civilized citizens of Australia as well as whole world.

Mai Maddisson   5/02/2018 7:20:01 PM

I tend to agree with Peter Strickland. Life is about give and take.
As a past refugee kid who has integrated into the community, despite hardships caused by fudged documents I am a firm believer that to act in haste is to repent at leisure. The host country and its people have rights too. Decisions cannot be made in a split second at another's whim.
Somewhere in the past among my writings are the words "It is better to live in a cardboard box even for 5 or more years than live in a castle surrounded by the streets of hell for the rest of time."
The newcomers do not have their hands tied behind their backs: there are constructive ways to mark time. A lot of work has been done in Europe by past war kids on what worked well and what didn't. Rolling one's sleeves up and doing what was possible did work- what could the newcomers themselves do to make those camps more comfortable to live in.
Most of them have never lived in anything resembling a paradise, the locals don't live in one, why do they have the right to expect paradise where ever they go.
But the flipside of the coin is that those at the hierarchy too have their arrogance and egos. Australia has two large cohorts of refugees who have integrated effectively sans dramas: The post WW II group and the Vietnam Conflict group. There is a goldmine of experience available from that think tank of people who have effectively negotiated the journey and aside from their physical features are not recognizable in our midst.
Why is that think tank NOT being used?

Bruce Mason   30/05/2018 11:41:45 AM

why do you "tend to agree with . . " . . something . . two months later? this seems a strangely skewed and haphazard forum. there's probably some sort of personal agenda reasons for these anomolies, but I've spent enough time on it already