It’s been a wild week for me. I’ve been working, as many others have, to try and raise awareness for Ali, so that he can come to Australia for palliative care. He is a refugee dying of metastatic lung cancer. I’ve been moved by the public petitions of our peak bodies, and by the doctors who have willingly put their name in the public forum on this letter to Peter Dutton. I’m also heartened by the wonderful campaigns that advocacy groups are running.
There’s been no word from the Government as yet. I’m very disappointed, because while it might seem a political issue, its not. It’s about good v poor medical care. This man’s care is sadly lacking. On Nauru, there is no way to ensure any standard of assessment, diagnosis or treatment which every single Australian is entitled and regularly receives for their cancer diagnoses.
Ali requires transfer to Australia for care, end of story.
As I’ve read about Nauru, it’s becoming obvious that Ali’s case is not isolated. The information available in the public forum is limited, and some of this has to do with the government making it a crime for doctors (until October 2016) to speak out. Several doctors have shared their significant concerns since then about the health care on Nauru. I commend Dr Nick Martin, a Senior Medical Officer on Nauru from November 2016 to August 2017 for speaking up about his experiences. My own limited exposure to speaking up has given me an insight into how lonely it could be, and just how strongly he must feel about the situation.
One source of information not tainted by media hype is a timely report by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre released June 14 this year entitled In Poor Health: Health care in Australian immigration detention. It's focus is on on-shore detention. The title provides an insight, if you don’t have time to read further.
As doctors, we care for our patients. We work in teams that strive towards excellence and equitable care for all. I’m becoming very concerned that the treatment of refugees in detention centres does not represent care we can be proud of. I’m concerned that this deficiency in care is not isolated to Ali’s, and represents systematic state-sanctioned neglect of health care for refugees in detention centres.
It’s not up to me to decide these things, as one GP on the Sydney’s northern beaches. If it were, I’d be calling for an inquiry.