9 Jan 2004

Australia bids to resolve Nauru hospital problems

11:50 am on 9 January 2004

Australia has offered to send a team of officials to Nauru to discuss the island nation's concerns about the strain asylum seekers are putting on its health system.

The Foreign Minister Alexander Downer admitted a hunger strike by thirty-three immigration detainees, which ended yesterday, had put the country's only hospital under pressure.

The Australian Medical Association has yet to get permission from the Australian government to send a team of doctors to treat the detainees.

The AMA's Dr Rohan Vora says it seems Nauru is now making decisions independently of Australia, but he hopes the doctors won't be used as political pawns.

"We don't want to get caught in the middle of things, where we can't do much over there because the asylum-seekers don't really trust us, and just see us as another external team, that's just come in, and we would hope that we would be able to work co-operatively with the Nauruan government, as well as the Australian government."

There's not yet been any indication when or how Australian doctors would go to the island.