Australia’s GPs call for support for Dr Kerryn Phelps’ private member’s bill to save vulnerable lives

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) urges all sides of government to support Dr Kerryn Phelps MP in her call to put the decisions about the medical treatment of asylum seekers and refugees back in the hands of doctors.

GP and Chair of the RACGP Refugee Health Network Dr Kate Walker said opposition to the bill had the potential to put more lives at risk.

“We saw strong support for Dr Phelps’ bill late last year, but now we must see all of our political leaders offer their full and immediate support,” Dr Walker said.

“These asylum seekers must be able to receive the proper level of healthcare.

“Dr Phelps’ bill will help ensure those seeking asylum in Australia will be provided with the appropriate level of healthcare, as deemed by trained and qualified medical professionals.

“The bill will allow seriously ill asylum seekers and refugees to have access to medical and psychiatric treatment if it is not available in their regional processing centre”.

Dr Walker said refugees and asylum seekers currently experienced lengthy delays to receive medical treatment.

“These delays are due to the current bureaucratic processes, which has been found by the coroner to have contributed to at least one death,” Dr Walker said.

“Dr Phelps’ bill will help to address these delays and ensure refugees and asylum seekers receive the medical and psychiatric care they require.”

Dr Walker said it was time the government put its trust in Australia’s medical community. “Australian GPs and other medical specialists have devoted their lives to improving the health of their communities,” Dr Walker said.

“Our professional independent medical opinions about the health care needs of the asylum seekers must be respected. Stop playing politics with these vulnerable people’s lives.”

Dr Walker said the removal of most asylum seeker and refugee children from Nauru was a positive step forward, but the high levels of inadequately treated mental illness and lack of access to specialist medical and psychiatric services was continuing to put lives at risk.

“We have a duty of care to ensure these individuals and families are able to access appropriate healthcare,” Dr Walker said.

“Australian regional processing centres need urgent, independent input from the Australian medical community.”

The RACGP will continue to urge government to accept its expert input and support until this unfolding humanitarian crisis is addressed.

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