Australia accused of medical negligence on Manus Island

4:46 pm on 17 November 2017

A doctor and a lawyer advocating for a Manus Island refugee with a heart condition say Australia is neglecting its responsibility to provide him with adequate healthcare.

The refugee is loaded into a vehicle after collapsing at the detention centre.

The refugee is loaded into a vehicle after collapsing at the detention centre. Photo: supplied

The 38-year-old known as Samuel, who had a heart attack in February, said cardiologists told him the treatment he needed was not available in Papua New Guinea.

He collapsed this month during the refugees' occupation of the former detention centre after food, water and power were cut from the facility.

The Manus Island hospital did not have equipment to test his blood or heart rhythm, and now in detention in the island's Hillside Haus, Samuel is still having chest pain.

The refugee said after four years of Australian detention, he was due an Australian standard of care.

Paddy McLisky

Paddy McLisky Photo: Doctors for Refugees

"A visiting doctor who came from Australia and another cardiologist in Port Moresby both recommended that I need to do some tests which aren't available in PNG. Australia owe me treatment. I don't care where."

Brisbane based GP Paddy McLisky from the advocacy group Doctors for Refugees said healthcare services for refugees on Manus Island were inadequate and the Australian government was guilty of medical negligence.

"Honestly, I don't say that lightly but we know this man has a documented history of a heart attack, we know he had symptoms consistent with chest pain," he said.

"Papua New Guinea, being a developing nation, we don't expect them to have all the bells and whistles everywhere that we have in Australia.

"But bearing in mind the department of immigration, the Australian government has designated Lorengau hospital as the after hours care provider for these men, we find this highly inappropriate and inadequate."

Lawyer Simon Bruck from Sydney's Refugee Advice and Casework Service said the Australian government was neglecting its duty of care.

"Australia has a responsibility to provide protection to someone that's lawfully claimed asylum, as has the man known as Samuel," said Mr Bruck.

Simon Bruck

Simon Bruck Photo: RACS

"So Australia needs to uphold its duty of care to these people by providing adequate health services."

Australia has contracted International Health and Medical Services, or IHMS, to provide healthcare for Manus Island refugees at the East Lorengau Transit centre.

IHMS said it held general practitioner and mental health clinics between 9am and 5pm during the week and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays.

Mr Bruck said Samuel was told by a doctor at the transit centre that further testing of his heart in Australia would be a waste of money.

"When he saw a doctor yesterday, their response was that it would be a waste of money for further tests and treatment to be done for him in Australia," said Mr Bruck.

"And that the standard of care that he should expect should be the standard of Papua New Guinea and any higher standard would be a waste of money.

"So, I find that very concerning."

Hillside Haus

Hillside Haus Photo: supplied

Dr McLisky said Samuel was due for further testing as recommended by cardiologists, but he said this treatment, like many medical procedures in Australian offshore detention, had been delayed.

"I think what we are seeing here is this typical kind of delay of medical services, which so many of these men, and indeed refugee families on Nauru, so many of this cohort are experiencing," said Dr McLisky.

"And there's also a policy, it may not be a written policy, but the Australian government only brings people to Australia if they are critically, or at least seriously unwell."

IHMS did not respond to questions whether its healthcare was adequate or in any way compromised by the Australian government.

Samuel said Australia's negligence had imperiled his life.

"Obviously you and your system doesn't care about me, but I have people who cares about me. I have parents who care about me, I have siblings who care about me.

"My death might cause them a lot of trouble."

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs