Mental health crisis on Manus Island, Labor must back Phelps’ bill

| December 4, 2018 | Reply

There are now almost daily suicide attempts among refugees on Manus Island, and no medical facilities to cope with the crisis.

The small Pacific International Hospital (PIH) at the East Lorengau compound has only one room to treat emergency patients, so there is no place to care for in-patients, so they are returned unsupervised to their rooms.

The Lorengau general hospital turns away mental health patients, saying they can only deal with physical problems.

After days of pleading with the clinic at East Lorengau, five people were eventually sent from Manus to PIH in Port Moresby on 30 November. The list of very mentally unwell people in PIH Port Moresby is growing, but they are transferred only when the situation on Manus becomes critical.

Self-immolation attempts have become common in East Lorengau.

On Monday 3 December, there were three suicide attempts. One Afghan refugee (who had attempted to hang himself the day before), swallowed shampoo and overdosed. He was taken to the clinic at East Lorengau.

While in East Lorengau compound one man severely self-harmed, while another poured petrol over himself and attempted to set himself alight.

The acute mental health cases are the tip of the iceberg, of the crisis that other refugees themselves are trying to manage. At least one refugee in East Lorengau is suffering a complete mental breakdown, experiencing hallucination and exhibiting frightening paranoid behaviour.

“While politicians in Canberra are twiddling their thumbs counting down the days til the end of the parliamentary year, refugees on Manus are counting the casualties of offshore detention,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

“With Labor’s support, Kerryn Phelps’ ‘Urgent Medical Treatment bill’ can make sure that refugees can get the treatment they need. Court orders have been needed to get sick scores of sick children and their families off Nauru. Similar action has been needed to get three desperately sick men off Manus.

“Labor has already made it clear that they do not support the Home Affairs Minister interfering with doctor’s recommendations for medical treatment. Labor’s support can help make that law, and help end the medical crisis on Manus and Nauru.”

For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713

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