The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has commended Dr Kerryn Phelps’ MP on her call to immediately transfer unwell asylum seekers and refugees from Nauru and Manus Island for medical assessment and treatment onshore.
GP and Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Network Dr Kate Walker said Dr Phelps’ private members bill would ensure those seeking asylum in Australia would be provided with the appropriate level of healthcare, as deemed by trained and qualified medical professionals. Those refugees and asylum seekers who are unable to receive appropriate medical or psychiatric assessment or treatment in the regional processing country will be transferred to Australia with minimal delay.
“Let’s remove the politics from healthcare,” Dr Walker said.
“People accessing their human right to seek asylum, as secured by the UN, must be able to receive the proper level of healthcare.
“This private members bill will put medical decisions back into the hands of treating medical practitioners.”
Dr Walker said it was time the government put its trust in Australia’s medical community.
“Australian GPs and other medical specialists have devoted their lives to improving the health of their communities,” Dr Walker said.
“We want to be able to do our jobs and properly care for these vulnerable men, women and children, just as our Oath of Fellowship affirms.
“As GPs, we seek to enhance the quality of our patients’ lives, maintain their dignity and treat all people equitably.
“We cannot sit back knowing the standard of care received by those seeking asylum in Australia is anything but acceptable, and that medical professionals’ decisions are delayed by administrative processes."
Dr Walker said that we must urgently address the health and wellbeing of asylum seekers and refugees in Australia’s offshore detention, with the first priority to immediately remove the most unwell adults, and remaining children and their families.
“The deteriorating mental and physical health of asylum seekers and refugees in offshore detention has reached crisis point,” Dr Walker said.
“Twelve asylum seekers have died on Nauru and Manus Island in the past five years, as reported in The Guardian Australia. This would be identified as a crisis in any other community.
“This bill is a good start to prevent further loss of life.
“The trauma experienced in Australian offshore regional processing centres is additional to the pre-arrival refugee experience. Self-harm, witnessed self-harm, chronic suicidal ideation and lack of long-term settlement opportunity impacts every single one of the refugees and asylum seekers on Manus Island and Nauru.
“These unwell individuals require a therapeutic environment, preferably in Australia, where they can receive the specialist care they need.
“Their recovery is dependent on viable long-term settlement. In addition to the Dr Phelps' bill, long term settlement options must be found as a matter of urgency.”
The RACGP will continue to urge government to accept its expert input and support until this unfolding humanitarian crisis is addressed.