The landmark Medevac Bill was passed in early 2019. After this historic win for sick refugees and people seeking asylum in offshore detention, we answer your frequently asked questions and explain how the Medevac process works.
What is Medevac?
The Medevac Bill is a law that was passed by the Australian Government providing critically sick refugees and people seeking asylum held in offshore detention a pathway to be transferred to Australia for urgent medical treatment. To receive medical evacuation to Australia, two independent Australian doctors must recommend for the sick refugees temporary transfer to Australia and agree that appropriate treatment cannot be provided while the person is in offshore detention in Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Nauru.
Before the passing of the Medevac Bill and subsequent formation of the Medevac Group, sick refugees were waiting an average of 2 years (in some cases up to 5 years) for transfer to Australia for medical treatment. The Medevac law ensures there is no longer political interference with the medical assessment and application process to evacuate people on the grounds of urgent medical transfer.
What does the Medevac Bill mean for sick people held in Papua New Guinea and Nauru?
The Medevac process provides clear timeframes for decisions to transfer sick people on the basis of medical concerns while providing opportunities for transfer refusal at each step of the process. It is also a far more rigorous, transparent and independent process and omitspolitical interference in a patient’s access to healthcare.
The Home Affairs Legislation Amendment (Miscellaneous Measures) bill, also known as the “Medevac Bill”, allows for the temporary transfer of patients in offshore detention to Australia for medical or psychiatric treatment or assessment.
It means that people in PNG and Nauru will be able to receive appropriate medical treatment and assessment. The Medevac bill allows sick people to be transferred to Australia to receive medical treatment that’s unavailable in PNG and Nauru and within a reasonable timeframe.
The Medevac Bill also provides for the preservation of the family unit, ensuring that any members of the same family unit are also transferred.
What is the process for medical evacuation outlined in the Medevac bill?
Medical transfers are triggered based on recommendations from two independent treating doctors who believe the patient is not able to receive the medical care that they need in PNG or Nauru.
The Minister of Home Affairs has the opportunity to review every transfer. If the Minister chooses to refuse a transfer he will have 72 hours from the doctors recommendation to make a refusal.
The Minister reserves the ministerial right to veto any case on security grounds. The Medevac Bill specifies clear timeframes for each step to ensure that a patient treatment isn’t delayed by prolonged court cases and bureaucracy. Find out more about the Medevac process
What was the process before Medevac?
Before Medevac there were medical transfers to Australia for treatment but these were a result of highly taxing and resource intensive court cases that spanned months and years.
The average time waiting time for transfer after recommendation was 2-3 years, with some people still waiting for up to 5 years for adequate medical treatment.
What is the medical situation for people held in off-shore detention in PNG and Nauru?
12 people have died in offshore detention over the past 5 years. Many of these deaths relate to treatable illnesses.
The medical situation continues to be urgent for ill men, women, and young adults who arrived in offshore detention as children. Medical experts, including doctors who have worked in Nauru and Manus Island, have spoken repeatedly about their concerns regarding the transfer system and identifying political interference in clinical recommendations.
Which doctors assess the patients in PNG and Nauru?
Two treating doctors must each assess a patient and make a recommendation for transfer to Australia if they believe that the appropriate treatment is not available in PNG or Nauru. They can provide this assessment in person or remotely.
If the Minister of Home Affairs refuses a transfer, an independent health panel has the chance to reassess the recommendation for transfer. The independent panel consists of nine doctors including The Government’s Chief Medical Officer, the Department of Home Affairs’ Chief Medical Officer, the Australian Border Force’ Surgeon-General along with representatives from the AMA.
The win of Medevac belongs to you, to us, to Behrouz and Aziz and Ellie and all of the men women and children who have survived offshore processing and now will get to see the doctors they need to heal.
What is the ASRC doing to help facilitate Medevac?
As part of the Medevac group (MERG) the ASRC helps manage the urgent medical transfer application process.
The ASRC’s Detention Advocacy team provides intensive case management to sick refugees in offshore detention, everything from;
case managing the formal request for medical transfer of sick refugees
critical care support
developing and managing medical and legal records for advocacy
administering the operational process
How can you help sick refugees receive medical transfer to Australia under Medevac?
Prolonged time in offshore detention is continuing to take a significant toll on the physical and mental well-being of already sick refugees and people seeking asylum that are being held in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
Hundreds are still languishing in brutal detention facilities where 12 people have died already and where medical care is grossly inadequate.
The Medevac repeal legislation has passed in the Senate, stripping sick refugees of their only pathway to receive urgent medical care.
Access to medical care is a basic human right. Denying people this right is completely wrong and inhumane.
Support the ASRC to continue fighting for the welfare and safety of people in offshore detention.