August 16, 2013
THE Australian Medical Association has backed the Greens’ call for independent doctors to protect asylum seeker health.
The association, which represents doctors, has asked the major parties to support the Greens’ policy to establish an independent health panel to monitor asylum seekers in Nauru and PNG, rather than leaving it up to the Department of Immigration.
But AMA Victoria president Dr Stephen Parnis wants this policy to be extended to asylum seekers living in detention centres, including one in Maribyrnong, in Melbourne’s west.
“We know people who have been there (to Maribyrnong) to visit them and treat them and these places are breeding grounds for severe mental illness and other health issues. Healthcare and that healthcare must be radically improved,” he said.
“The fact we have a detention centre seven kilometres of the city of Melbourne, should bring it home. This is in our own backyard. We are only asking that they be afforded the same health care that we regard as a right for Australians,” Dr Parnis said.
“Asylum seekers should have the same level of healthcare as all Australian citizens. Whether they are being detained in offshore or onshore facilities, such as Maribynong Immigration Detention Centre, their health cannot be ignored.
“In addition to suffering the same health problems as the general population, asylum seekers are at a higher risk of developing a range of conditions including psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, and the physical effects of persecution and torture. They may also often suffer the effects of poor dental hygiene, poor nutrition and diet, and infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, which may be more common in their countries of origin. The longer a person is in detention, the higher their risk of mental illness.
Dr Parnis said the AMA would continue to push whatever party was in government to establish an independent health panel.
Federal Minister for Immigration Tony Burke said the Labor Government had established the Immigration Health Advisory Group in March.
Mr Burke said the group would provide the Immigration Department with independent advice on the design, development and evaluation of health and mental health policies and services.
“Members of the group were selected from representatives of professional bodies based on their experience and contribution to the refugee and asylum seeker fields. There is always room for improvement and I will consider such a proposal in the future,” he said.
Maribyrnong Liberal candidate Ted Hatzakortzian did not respond to theLeader‘s questions.