A new report by the Independent Health Advice Panel shows that the Medevac laws, which allow independent Australian doctors to recommend medical transfers for seriously ill people detained offshore, are working.
The Panel is a review body established by the Medevac laws passed earlier this year. The Panel is only required to provide an assessment where the Minister for Home Affairs refuses a recommendation for transfer made by two independent treating doctors. Just 15 cases were referred to the panel from 1 April to 30 June this year, and the Panel was able to make a decision on all cases referred to it within the legislated 72 hour timeframe.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre, said: “This report proves that the Medevac legislation is working as intended and exposes the Prime Minister’s baseless hysteria when opposing the laws. The Minister has approved the vast majority of transfers for sick people, without even needing to go to the Panel.”
The Morrison Government is attempting to repeal the Medevac laws, but removing a fair, transparent and doctor-led process for accessing essential medical care is cruel and unnecessary.
“The Medevac laws work by putting doctors, not politicians, at the heart of decisions about people’s medical care. Repealing the Medevac laws would risk the lives of people on Nauru and Papua New Guinea,” Mr de Kretser said.
Before the Medevac laws, refugees were often forced to take urgent legal action to secure access to medical transfers. Since the Medevac laws started operating, over 100 people have been transferred to Australia to receive the treatment they urgently needed.
Each Medevac application has been backed by expert medical advice, and the Minister can choose to have an application reviewed by the Independent Health Advice Panel which includes senior government doctors.
“It shouldn’t take a court case to ensure that someone receives the medical care they need. Before Medevac, we were involved in many cases where the Minister had refused to transfer women, men and children for treatment, despite clear medical evidence of the serious risks to their lives. This is why the Medevac laws are crucial,” Mr de Kretser said.
The Panel includes the Surgeon-General of the Australian Border Force, the Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer, and physicians appointed by the Australian Medical Association, the Royal Australasian College of Physicians and the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists.
The report comes as polling revealed that the majority of Australians either approve of the Medevac laws, or believe that more needs to be done to protect the health of refugees in offshore detention.
Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director, Human Rights Law Centre, 0403 965 340