• A former senior doctor with an Immigration Department contractor alleges medical staff were repeatedly pressured not to report mental health problems caused by detention on Nauru.
• Suspended doctor and voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke has been called on to help with a medical emergency on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
• An Adelaide GP alleged to have forged prescriptions to obtain Stillnox sleeping tablets and opioid pain medication has faced court.
Health News on Health Professional Radio. Today is the 10th June 2015. Read by Rebecca Foster.
A former senior doctor with an Immigration Department contractor alleges medical staff were repeatedly pressured not to report mental health problems caused by detention on Nauru.
A Senate inquiry is looking into the Australian-funded detention facility on the Pacific island nation.
Peter Young was the former director of mental health for International Health and Medical Services and was responsible for the mental health of those in Australian-run centres.
Dr Young said he was told several times not to note psychological harm in reports.
“When it came to mental health issues we were repeatedly told that when making recommendations about people’s mental health, and the harms that accrued to their mental health while they were in Nauru, that we should not say that in the reports,” he said.
“[We were told that] it was unacceptable to put in reports to the department that people’s mental health had been harmed by being in detention in Nauru.”
Dr Young was asked: “Who said to you [that] you shouldn’t put that in a report?”
“The Department’s chief medical officer,” he replied, saying he argued against the recommendation and did not alter reports.
Dr Young also said medical recommendations were frequently not accepted or delayed.
He said there was a reluctance to send people to Australia for treatment because it would undermine the offshore detention policy and migrants could more readily access lawyers.
Suspended doctor and voluntary euthanasia advocate Philip Nitschke has been called on to help with a medical emergency on a flight from Los Angeles to Sydney.
Dr Nitschke was approached by staff on Qantas flight QF12 to help a passenger with cancer whose condition deteriorated in the latter part of the journey.
“He felt he was deteriorating. His wife was worried. [They] had a young family. They asked if I would assess him and stay with him for the latter part of the flight,” Dr Nitschke said.
The suspended doctor said the patient, in his late 30’s, was in “very poor shape” but never required resuscitation.
Dr Nitschke said he told the crew he was not permitted to practise medicine, but believed he had an obligation to help.
“[I was] acting as a good Samaritan effectively,” he said.
“[There is] legislation which allows a doctor who is deregistered or suspended, as I am, to render medical care.”
It is believed the man was seated in business class, due to the nature of his illness, while his young family was seated in economy.
Dr Nitschke sat with the man and monitored his condition for the rest of the flight, which was met by an ambulance at the arrival gate.
“It was a big effort trying to get him through and down and out into the ambulance,” he said.
He accompanied the man to Royal North Shore Hospital, where he was assessed by medical staff.
An Adelaide GP alleged to have forged prescriptions to obtain Stillnox sleeping tablets and opioid pain medication has faced court.
Graeme John Murphy, 58, has stood trial in the Adelaide Magistrates Court after pleading not guilty to two counts of forging a prescription to obtain drugs.
The prosecution told the court Murphy had uttered prescriptions for the commonly used sleeping pill, Stillnox, and the pain medication, Tramadol, at a Frewville pharmacy in Adelaide’s inner south-east during February 2013.
The court heard the dispensary technician thought the prescriptions looked suspicious and notified the pharmacist.
One of the prescriptions was signed by Murphy as though he had issued it, while the other was signed by another doctor who worked with Murphy.
Both had been issued to a man named John Brooks, but police were unable to locate him based on the address given and Medicare records.
The court heard the pharmacist phoned the other doctor and confirmed he had not issued the prescription and that the signature had been forged.
The court heard the pharmacist phoned police and told Murphy he should wait to speak with them, but Murphy fled.
Prosecutor Sergeant Abi Foulkes told the court Murphy had fled the pharmacy because he realised he had been “caught in the crosshairs”.
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