Mentally ill asylum seeker denied care

August 06, 2012

A MENTALLY ill asylum seeker was denied admission to hospital and left in Villawood Immigration Detention Centre without court-ordered follow-up care, advocates say.

Prominent Sydney lawyer and refugee advocate, George Newhouse, from Shine Lawyers, said the asylum seeker, dubbed Mr P to protect his identity, had been abandoned by the NSW Ministry of Health.

“He needed assertive treatment in the immediate and long-term,” Mr Newhouse said. “He most definitely didn’t get assertive treatment and he most certainly didn’t get the psycho-social rehabilitation he needed.”

Mr Newhouse will take the case to the Supreme Court of NSW today, arguing that the body charged with protecting the rights of mentally ill people in NSW, the Mental Health Review Tribunal, should not have agreed to his involuntary treatment in Villawood.

Mr P is a Sri Lankan refugee who has a brain injury and schizophrenia, and has been experiencing delusions and disordered thoughts. His condition has recently worsened and he has been violent, defecated and urinated in his house.

Despite this, doctors with the NSW Ministry of Health in February applied for Mr P to be discharged from hospital and stated that he would not be admitted again in future.

They applied to the Tribunal for Mr P to be involuntarily treated using a community treatment order, which would be delivered at Villawood.

A psychiatrist hired by Shine Lawyers for Mr P had testified that his mental health would deteriorate if he was held in detention.

The Mental Health Review Tribunal decided that despite the circumstances being “certainly not ideal” for Mr P’s health, he should be treated involuntarily at Villawood.

In a judgment delivered by the then-president of the tribunal, Greg James, NSW Ministry of Health doctors were also ordered to continue to be involved in Mr P’s care.

Yet documents seen by the Herald indicate NSW Health had little role in his care. It claimed Mr P’s health was not deteriorating despite the Commonwealth government confirming his behaviour was escalating and he had been moved into solitary confinement. His NSW Health doctor had only seen him once since the orders were made.

Greens NSW MP John Kaye said the case set an appalling precedent for how asylum seekers would be cared for.

“NSW Health dumped this man back into immigration detention, despite knowing that his condition would most likely deteriorate,” Dr Kaye said. “The state’s public mental health system has failed to fulfil its legal and moral obligations to a very sick and highly vulnerable individual.”

A spokesman from South Western Sydney local health district said patient confidentiality and the court hearing meant it would be inappropriate to comment.

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Filed under Detention Centers, Torturing and Health Issues

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