Darwin hospital struggling with asylum trauma

Jane Bardon
ABC News

Darwin’s major hospital is struggling to treat the large number of asylum seekers who have been traumatised by immigration detention, the Australian Medical Association says.

Photo: Doctors say up to five asylum seekers are brought to the Royal Darwin Hospital every day.

Many asylum seekers have attempted suicide, and some have to be admitted to the psychiatric ward.

Doctors say up to five asylum seekers are brought to the Royal Darwin Hospital every day, and the association has accused the Federal Government of ignoring the fact that the hospital cannot cope with the numbers.

AMA Territory president Paul Bauert says staff at the hospital, who already have to deal with the highest rates of illness in Australia, are overloaded and frustrated.

“The patients are sent back to exactly the same conditions that have caused their high level of psychiatric illness,” he said.

He says keeping asylum seekers in community detention would reduce their stress levels and the number of injuries.

“We’re still having major issues with getting interpreters, getting accurate documentation from the detention centres about the patients’ previous history,” he said.

The Immigration Department says asylum seekers are getting “appropriate” medical care, but Dr Bauert says immigration health services are not helping.

“One of the ways that’s used in an effort to decrease the amount of presentations to the health staff at the detention centres is the use of anti-depressants,” he said.

“One gets the feeling that both Minister [Chris] Bowen and the Health Minister, Plibersek, really don’t understand the health conditions of the Northern Territory population and certainly have no understanding of the amount of psychological stress that they are putting on these unfortunate people in detention.”

He says long-term drug use is putting the detainees at further risk.

One comment

  1. Ombudsmans report on man who died in detention

    While the Coronial Inquiry into the death of Mr Jayasekara is likely to be years away, This report from the Ombudsman’s office raises serious questions. This man died in detention exactly two weeks after two years of detention. This man had suffered torture and trauma in his country before arrival. He was counselled for 12 months from Torture services.
    There is a policy on the identification and treatment of people who have suffered torture and it recommends release from detention.
    How can this be? Were the recommendations from the Medical services ignored ? What is the point of humane policies if they are routinely ignored?
    This man took his life in desperation.
    How many more must die before Indefinite Mandatiory Detention is stopped once and for all?

    Under s 4860 ofthe Migration Act 1958
    Personal identifier: 670111
    This is the first s 4860 report by the Ombudsman on Mr Jayasekara who remained in
    immigration detention for over two years. Mr Jayasekara was not previously reviewed
    by the Ombudsman.
    Principal facts
    Personal details
    1. Mr Jayasekara died in immigration detention on 26 October 2011. He was a
    28 year old citizen of Sri Lanka and he had reported no family links to Australia.
    His father and brother reside in Sri Lanka.
    Detention history
    2. Mr Jayasekara arrived in Australia on 2 October 2009 aboard the Suspected
    Illegal Entry Vessel 59 – Glenroy. He was transferred to Christmas Island and
    detained under section 189(3) of the Migration Act 1958. He was transferred to
    Villawood Immigration Detention Centre (VI DC) on 27 March 2010 and then to
    Sydney Immigration Residential Housing (SIRH) on 13 July 2011.
    Visa applications
    3. Mr Jayasekara applied for a refugee status assessment (RSA) and on
    5 January 2010 was found not to be a refugee. He requested an Independent
    Merits Review (IMR) of the RSA decision which was upheld by the IMR reviewer
    on 10 April 2010.
    4. As a result of the High Court ruling on 11 November 2010 that the IMR process
    was legally flawed, Mr Jayasekara was offered the opportunity to apply for a
    second IMR and an interview for this was held on 18 February 2011. On
    8 August 2011 Mr Jayasekara was found to be owed protection.
    5. On 22 August 2011 the Department requested a PIC 4002 security assessment for
    Mr Jayasekara. This was still outstanding at the time of his death.
    Ombudsman consideration
    6. DIAC’s report to the Ombudsman under s 486N dated 18 October 2011.
    7. Ombudsman staff sighted the following documents: International Health and
    Medical Services (lHMS) report dated 26 September 2011, Independent Merits
    Review decisions dated 10 April 2010 and 8 August 2011.
    Key issues
    Health and welfare
    8. IHMS advises that Mr Jayasekara reported with a number of minor medical
    complaints, including colds, headaches and generalised body aches and pains
    that were reviewed by IHMS staff and effectively managed.
    9. Mr Jayasekara complained of skin rashes and lesions and following a referral to a
    dermatologist in December 2010 was diagnosed with an infectious disease. He
    was treated at Liverpool Hospital Infectious Diseases Clinic and commenced
    treatment for this condition. He was compliant with medication prescribed and was
    last seen at the clinic on 8 September 2011 . He had been responding well to his
    treatment and was to have been reviewed at the end of 2011 . He also received
    counselling from the Mental Health Team on 14 June 2010 in relation to the
    psychological effects of being diagnosed with this disease, and was receiving
    ongoing counselling.
    10. IHMS advised Mr Jayasekara undertook voluntary starvation for four days from
    20 to 24 April 2010. He was monitored according to IHMS’s protocol and followed
    up by the Mental Health Team. He was also seen by the Mental Health Team after
    his negative RSA and IMR outcomes, and after being involved in roof top protests
    at VIDC.
    11 . Mr Jayasekara diSclosed a history of torture and trauma when examined on
    22 April 2010. He initially declined counselling for this but subsequently accepted
    a referral to the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and
    Trauma Survivors (STARTTS). He commenced counselling in July 2010 and his
    last appointment with STARTTS was on 18 July 2011 .
    12. Mr Jayasekara was considered for placement in community detention due to his
    physical health issues however his request for this was declined on 13 July 2011 .
    On the same day he was transferred to SIRH.
    Ombudsman assessment/recommendation
    13. The Ombudsman notes that Mr Jayasekara died in immigration detention on
    26 October 2011 and that his death is the subject of a coronial inquiry. No
    recommendation is made in this report.
    Alison Larkins
    2.c:~/(( /(1 • • …. •.. .. •
    Acting Commonwealth and Immigration Ombudsman

    Pamela Curr
    Campaign Coordinator
    Asylum Seeker Resource Centre
    12 Batman st West Melbourne 3003
    ph 03 9326 6066 / 0417517075