The Medical Evacuation Response Group (MERG) has responded to the Independent Health Advice Panel (IHAP) Report tabled in Parliament, stating the report shows that in the majority of cases, the Minister himself agrees that transfer to Australia is medically necessary.
The IHAP reported that only 15 cases needed review by the panel from April – June 2019. IHAP only provides its assessment where the Minister refuses an initial transfer recommendation made by 2 independent Australian treating doctors.
The IHAP was established by the Medevac laws passed earlier this year, which allow independent Australian doctors to recommend medical transfers for seriously ill people detained offshore.
The IHAP is currently constituted by 2 government-appointed physicians and 3 physicians appointed by the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
Kon Karapanagiotidis, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) CEO said: “The ASRC detention advocacy team helps coordinate the Medevac application process. We have found that overall, the Minister agrees with the assessment of independent Australian doctors in 85% of cases.”
“The Independent Health Panel is rarely called in to reassess a patient at the Minister’s behest.”
“The report shows that the IHAP panel were only requested to re-assess the independent Australian treating doctors’ view on 15 occasions during the period of 1 April 2019 to 30 June 2019, with IHAP confirming the doctor’s view in 6 cases, and the Minister’s refusal to transfer in 9 cases,” Kon said.
Kelly Nicholls, Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) spokesperson, stated, “The IHAP report reinforces what was heard by the Senate Committee; the numbers being transferred from offshore detention through the Medevac provisions are modest. The report indicates that the Medevac laws are working and that the fabled ‘floodgates’ have not materialised.”
The IHAP report also outlines that the Government is undertaking some transfers on its own account, and details the integration of the IHAP Panel in real-time review and assessment of medical cases offshore. The IHAP was able to reach a decision on all referred cases within the timeframes set out in the Medevac laws.
David Manne, Executive Director and Principal Solicitor at Refugee Legal, added, “These laws have proven to be a critical and necessary mechanism to ensure that the urgent medical needs of men and women for evacuation are properly identified and met – and that the Australian Government is able to act on expert medical advice to meet its duty of care to seriously unwell people on Papua New Guinea and Nauru.”
“These are life-saving laws. They ensure that evacuation is based on the opinions of medical experts”.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said: “The Medevac laws work by putting doctors, not politicians, at the heart of decisions about people’s medical care. Removing a fair, transparent and doctor-led process for accessing essential, and in many cases, life-saving medical care is cruel and unnecessary. Repealing the Medevac laws would risk the lives of people on Nauru and Papua New Guinea.”
Laura Stacey, Refugee Council of Australia: 0488 035 535
Marcella Brassett, Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: 0411 026 142
MERG is a partnership of specialist refugee support organisations working to ensure the safe, orderly and effective implementation of applications under the Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) Act, known as the Medevac legislation.
Further information on the MERG group: https://merg.org.au/