The Health News – 18 February 2014

Overview

  • Refugee advocates have warned the federal government’s call to send 10 children unaccompanied to Nauru detention centre has put the children at serious risk of mental health issues.
  • In the Northern Territory, ambulance staff have commenced industrial action to try and end what they’ve called a bullying culture in the Saint John Ambulance Service.
  • The Health Services Union has supported the Western Australian Treasurer’s criticism of the health department over the Fiona Stanley Hospital debacle.
  • A Sydney-based psychiatrist has been forced to stop travelling to Mudgee, in the mid-west of the state, due to absence of air travel from Sydney.

Health News on HPR.

Refugee advocates warn of mental health risks for unaccompanied children sent to Nauru – by Felicity Ogilvie
Refugee advocates have warned the federal government’s call to send 10 children unaccompanied to Nauru detention centre has put the children at serious risk of mental health issues. Advocates from the charity group Save The Children, which is tasked with taking care of the minors, have said the children arrived at Nauru on Sunday morning and will be housed in a family detention unit. Save The Children say research clearly shows that the mental and physical wellbeing of children deteriorate further the longer they are held. The group’s director of international programs, Scott Gilbert, believes the government never should have sent the children to offshore detention. He said “We do not think, under any circumstances, that children as vulnerable as these should be sent offshore for processing, as it’s called. We believe that the best place for these children is in the Australian community where they get the support and the standard of care and services that they require – and that still remains our very, very strong position.”
The immigration minister Scott Morrison has defended the federal government’s policy of processing child refugees offshore, and how he manages his responsibilities as legal guardian of unaccompanied children. He said “I do that by ensuring that the facilities are in place in Nauru and when my guardianship responsibilities are transferred to justice minister in Nauru, that’s how I do it and that’s what I’ve been doing. You have to be consistent when pursuing policies to stop the boats and that is why we have not had a successful people smuggling venture get to Australia in the last more than eight weeks. When people aren’t coming on boats, people aren’t dying on boats … people don’t have to be sent to detention centres and the extraordinary costs that are associated with all of those policies don’t become necessary over the longer term.”

Mr Gilbert maintains that their care will be monitored closely by Save The Children, and said “The challenge for us is really making sure that they get there safe firstly, that they’re in an environment whereby they can’t do harm to themselves, or others can’t do harm to them. They’ll stay in the community with the other asylum seekers on Nauru, and we’ll do everything we can to make sure they get access to people of different ages, and we think that’s really important.”

Ambos taking industrial action over bullying – by Rob Herrick and Felicity James
In the Northern Territory, ambulance staff have commenced industrial action to try and end what they’ve called a bullying culture in the Saint John Ambulance Service. The Alice Springs delegate for the United Voice union group, Dan Falzon, has received dozens of complaints of managerial incompetence from union members. He said “The management team is apathetic to staff concerns and ignorant of coaching and support strategies of staff to do important things right. Racist and sexist comments and jokes are commonplace, verbal abuse is common, physical intimidation as well as assaults which occur from time to time and are covered up. There’s only so many times you can walk into your crew room and see a staff member with their head in their hands, and stressed and physically feeling sick about their treatment.” But the Northern Territory’s minister for Public Employment, John Elfernik, thinks ambulance staff are raising these issues as a bid for wage increases. He said “Of course their staff are going to explain all the reasons why they deserve more money and often they will drag things into the conversation outside of the normal realm of entitlements and pay, and that’s what I see happening here.” Mr Elfernik continued that as long as the ambulance service is meeting its contractual obligations with the government, the government are not concerned with how the ambulance service allocates its resources. The state health minister Robyn Lambley said she cannot yet comment due to the industrial dispute.

Union backs criticism of health planning at new hospital – no author listed
The Health Services Union has supported the Western Australian Treasurer’s criticism of the health department over the Fiona Stanley Hospital debacle. Treasurer Troy Buswell has said that there have been ‘significant failures’ in delivering IT and clinical services plans for the hospital. The Health Services Union WA branch secretary Dan Hill pointed out the union was raising concerns even before the health department pushed the hospital opening date back 6 months and said “The Department has shown a lack of planning, they are now taking action to remedy that. We’ve been raising concerns with the Health Department about their lack of planning, we’ve been continually told by the Minister for Health that they had the matters under control and clearly that has not been the case.” Mr Hill says concerns remain about staff whose positions are being transferred to the hospital, as they are being forced to apply for jobs with little knowledge of the conditions. Mr Hill said “Still a lot more needs to be done to ensure our members, health professionals currently working Royal Perth, Fremantle Hospital, Shenton Park and other hospitals are fully informed about their opportunities at Fiona Stanley.”


Lack of flights forces psychiatrist to quit Mudgee – no author listed
A Sydney-based psychiatrist has been forced to stop travelling to Mudgee, in the mid-west of the state, due to absence of air travel from Sydney. There have been no air services to the area since regional Brindabella Air folded. Mudgee’s chair of Region Tourism, Russell Holden, is as concerned about the impact this has on health services as on tourism. He explained “What this does is (create) a massive backlog on the specialists”. Psychiatrist Jacqueline Canessa, who used to work alternate weeks in Mudgee, said the lack of an air service was a major factor in her decision to cease working in the area. Dr Robert Reznik, a psychiatrist who worked alternating weeks with Dr Canessa, highlighted the impact of the absence of air travel, who said “I’m not experienced driving on country roads and quite frankly I’d be a danger driving back after an 8-hour clinic.” Staff at Western NSW Local Health District say that Dr Canessa will be replaced shortly and patients will not be impacted.