The Chief Medical Officer of DIBP suddenly left his post following this death on August 7, and to date there is still no medically qualified person in this role. Decisions on whether to escalate medical care, including to evacuate, to surgically treat or to bring in a specialist are all overseen by a non-medical departmental official. During this time we have seen a lack of basic equipment such as an ECG to investigate cardiac pain, a bleeding and invasive bowel cancer left inadequately treated and a man without epilepsy medications having recurrent seizures, amongst a disturbingly long list of poorly treated conditions.
During the year D4R also gave our final submission into the death of Hamid Khazaei. It is our considered view that this tragedy is largely a result of systemic failings in the offshore detention system. We will put this up on our website when it is released by the Court.
With our continued action against the Commonwealth’s Border Force Act (2015) this year the government introduced a second amendment to the Act. As you will be aware, in 2016, D4R launched a challenge in the High Court against secrecy provisions that threatened health professionals with 2 years in jail if they exposed wrongdoing in Australia’s offshore detention centres. In response to our challenge, the government exempted health professionals.
But in 2017 D4R continued the fight, knowing that much of the information regarding the substandard healthcare provided to refugees and asylum seekers came from people who were not health professionals, meaning they were still covered by the secrecy laws. In response to our continuing pressure on this issue, the government further limited those laws. D4R will not rest on this issue until we are sure that no laws are in place that prevent doctors and other health professionals from working to ensure refugees and asylum seekers in detention are given the treatment they so desperately need.
Throughout 2017 D4R has also regularly reviewed numerous case notes of asylum seekers/refugees, deemed to be at risk, and then taken steps if necessary to ensure these individuals receive adequate healthcare. In addition, this year, D4R also submitted evidence at Senate Inquiries, attended the entire Coronial Inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei as an expert witness and also conducted presentations to international representatives, federal MPs and peak health groups.
Moving into 2018, Doctors For Refugees is more determined than ever to ensure that each asylum seeker and refugee under Australia's jurisdiction receives an adequate standard of healthcare.