Pressure from health workers at the Lady Cilento Children’s Hospital in Brisbane has resulted in the Immigration Minister agreeing to let baby Asha and her family stay in Australia in community detention, rather than be immediately sent back to Nauru.
A health worker at the Lady Cilento vigil [source: Twitter]
Doctors and nurses had refused to release the baby, who was recovering from burns sustained on Nauru, arguing that it was unsafe to send her back to offshore detention. A 24-hour vigil outside the hospital attracted support from other health workers, unions and community groups over the past 10 days. There was also support in other states – doctors, nurses and midwives gathered at Sydney’s RPA Hospital last week to show their support.
Although the Minister is saying the family will be sent away from Australia eventually, this is undoubtedly a backdown in the face of mounting community pressure.
The AMA held a forum on the health of asylum seekers in Sydney on the weekend, which was addressed by paediatric nurse Alanna Maycock, who has previously spoken out about the conditions she encountered on Nauru.
AMA President Professor Brian Owler also gave an impassioned speech.
“Doctors, along with nurses, lawyers and others, must lead a debate on an issue of national importance.
I believe that is the case when it comes to the issue of children in detention and Australia’s provision of health care to asylum seekers.
…We should all be proud of the stand that our colleagues have taken.
Doctors at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne and, of course, more recently at the Lady Cilento Hospital in Brisbane have refused to release children from hospital because they would be returned to detention.
Some commentators have seen this as a form of political protest. But as a doctor working in a paediatric hospital, who deals with the consequences of physical abuse, I know that there is no reasonable other option for these doctors and nurses to take.
There is an absolute ethical, not to mention moral, obligation to that patient who is in their care. The obligation is to not release a child back into a situation where they have reason to believe that there is a risk of harm, whether that be physical or psychological.
Let me say that it is not an issue of denying someone else a bed for elective procedure. The obligation of that hospital, of those doctors, and nurses, is to the patient that is under their care.
To those doctors and nurses, and indeed, the State Governments and hospital administrators who have supported them, let me say you have our support.”
Previously on Nurse Uncut:
- Ethics, human rights and refugees – what all nurses should know
- Nurses lead the way on refugee health
- Nurses and midwives stand up for refugees