Weekly media wrap - 2 March 2019

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton claimed that the newly passed medical transfer legislation would result in Australians missing out on healthcare as a result of the arrival of refugees in Australia for medical care. This claim received criticism, including from independent MP Kerryn Phelps, who said that about 70 people were likely to need emergency transfer. The so-called medevac bill was passed by Parliament earlier this month and given royal assent this week.

The Nauru government passed a new law that will ban telemedicine for residents of the island nation, which has led Médecins Sans Frontières to suspend its psychological services. Under the new law, overseas medical transfers will not be approved ‘on the recommendation of an overseas health practitioner by telemedicine examination or diagnosis’. Refugee advocates said that these new laws could effectively block medical evacuations at the request of Australia.

A list of jobs has been advertised on Christmas Island by International Medical Health Services (contracted by the Australian Government to provide care for people in immigration detention) in anticipation that a number of people will be transferred from offshore processing to Australia for medical reasons. The roles advertised include a mental health nurse, psychologist, clinical psychologist and nurse radiographer.

The last four refugee children departed Nauru this week, having been transferred to the US amongst a total of 19 people for resettlement. Another 22 men from Manus Island were also transferred to the US to be resettled under the arrangement made by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull. 

An inquest was held this week into the death of the Iranian refugee Omid Masoumali, who was detained on Nauru for almost three years. The coroner, Terry Ryan, has been examining the health and medical evacuation services provided, and what could have been done to prevent the death.

Local employees of Paladin Security, contracted by the Australian Government for services to offshore processing centres on Manus Island, reportedly walked off the job this week over low pay and poor working conditions. The Guardian Australia was told that employees of the contracted health clinic for asylum seekers and refugees on Manus Island, Pacific International Hospital, as well as cleaning staff and bus drivers, also walked off the job because they had no security.