26 November 2019

RACGP speaks out against medevac repeal

Australia’s largest professional general practice organisation, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP), has today called on the Senate to save the medevac legislation.

The medevac laws give doctors the power to recommend that an asylum seeker or refugee on Manus Island or Nauru should be transferred to Australia for medical treatment.

GP and Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Network Dr Kate Walker said that repealing the legislation would be a huge mistake.

“Asylum seekers and refugees must be able to receive a proper level of healthcare as determined by qualified medical professionals.

“What this legislation does is give doctors, not administrators, greater power in determining whether people on Manus Island or Nauru require transfer to Australia for medical treatment. At least 200 patients have been transferred for urgent medical care using the medevac legislation.

“That is how it should be – doctors making a judgment on what type of care is needed.”

It’s not just the RACGP that has been urging the Australian Parliament to maintain the medevac legislation.

A previous joint statement from the presidents of 11 medical colleges called on the Government to maintain medevac and the independent health advice panel (IHAP). This group included the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP), the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine (ACRRM) and the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM).

“When it comes to medevac we are united in saying that this legislation is necessary and that repealing it would put patient care at risk,” Dr Walker said.

“Under the medevac legislation the Minister for Home Affairs still has final authority to review all individual applications and make the ultimate decision on whether someone should be transferred to receive medical care.

“But at the end of the day it’s vital that professional and independent medical opinion is heeded.
“If this legislation is repealed there is a high risk of refugee deaths. As a GP I can’t stand by and let that happen, every life is important.”

The RACGP will continue to urge government to accept its expert input and keep the medevac scheme in place.

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Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact:

John Ronan

Senior Media Advisor