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Home > Media > Medical crisis on Manus and Nauru escalates: Morrison Government must act to avoid further tragedy

Medical crisis on Manus and Nauru escalates: Morrison Government must act to avoid further tragedy

Joint media release by the Medical Evacuation Response Group

After six years of offshore detention there is an unprecedented medical crisis on Manus and Nauru. Men and women, who have been detained by the Australian Government, are experiencing a wide range of serious health conditions ranging from people who are acutely suicidal, to people with serious heart conditions that cannot be treated on the islands.

Since the Medevac Bill became law in February, more than 40 people have been transferred from offshore detention on Manus and Nauru to Australia for urgent medical treatment. This includes people who have successfully applied through the Medevac process and other critically ill people transferred by the Australian Government following advocacy by the Medical Evacuation Response Group.

Dr Sara Townend, who has been coordinating the team of doctors responding to the emergency, said the Government must act now to ensure refugees’ safety.   

“We have been working rapidly, and around the clock, to ensure critically ill people are assessed by doctors for transfer as quickly as possible. After almost 6 years the demand for assistance with applications has been huge,” said Dr Townend.

The Medical Evacuation Response Group has received an average of 11.5 applications for assistance per day with doctors completing an average of 8.2 medical triages per day.

The Morrison Government has announced it will repeal the Bill. A spike in suicide attempts and self-harm has been reported on Manus and Nauru in the days since Federal election. Before the Medevac Bill passed, lawyers were forced to run legal challenges or threaten legal action in the Federal Court to evacuate men, women and at that time children to receive urgent life-saving medical care.

“The Medevac Bill gives doctors a lifeline to assess sick refugees. It doesn’t diminish the responsibility of the Australian Government to look after the people in its care. The Government has, and continues to have, the power to bring people to Australia for urgent medical care. They are in a position to do this more urgently than the Medevac process allows for,” said Dr Townend.

Media contact: Julia Macerola on +61 422 337 332 or or Jo Scard on +61 457 725 953 or

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