Ashamed to be Australian': doctor slams Manus Island centred
CANBERRA, Australia --- A doctor who worked at the Manus Island detention centre has said the experience made him ''ashamed to be an Australian''.
Dr John Valentine, a former International Health and Medical Services (IHMS) worker, told the ABC's Four Corners program on Monday that despite Australia ''squandering money'' in offshore processing, he had tried in vain to warn authorities the Manus Island camp did not have sufficient medical supplies and equipment to care for children.
Despite this, he said, authorities sent a severely anaphylactic young boy and a nine-year-old girl with anaemia and a reported history of blood transfusions to the camp.
"The whole time I was there it was just a disaster, medically," Dr Valentine said.
"They ought not to be in Manus Island. It's just too remote and the medical facilities are quite inadequate."
Dr Valentine said that he continually sent lists of equipment he desperately needed to his manager and staff in Sydney, including oxygen, antibiotics, bladder catheters, anaesthetic agents, sedatives and so on.
"The oxygen was terribly important and it didn't arrive. Where was it? Where was it? We kept asking, could we have it? Send it up. It never came."
IHMS told Four Corners that medical provisions and replacements are “supplied as required."
There are now more than 30 children on Manus Island.
Another whistleblower, the Salvation Army's Paul Moulds, was director of offshore missions at Nauru and Manus Island before recently returning to Sydney.
He said he had spent almost his entire career in homelessness services, but said he had never had a harder job than that he faced in Australia's offshore processing centres.
"I can say quite honestly the people I work with from government and from the host countries, I don't think they want to injure asylum seekers. I don't think they want to see more damage done to them. But Australia has to determine, it has to weigh up the consequences of what it's doing."
Australian Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Triggs suggested the government rushed the opening of the centres for political expediency.
"It's not as though we didn't know what offshore processing could bring ... we know how dangerous and debilitating it was. We know the effect it had on people ... but I think, frankly, it was caught up in a political environment at the time and not enough serious thought was given to what the consequences were going to be."
While the figure is expected to be revised in the May budget, offshore processing is currently forecast to cost $2.3 billion over the next four years.
The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees' regional spokesman, Richard Towle, said this was a matter for Australia, but said: "I would say, however, that UNHCR's global budget for this year is $3.7 billion and with that money we're expected to respond to the crises of Syria, Mali, Afghanistan, for 25 million globally."
Meanwhile, the department of immigration has confirmed Australia will not fund the legal defence of asylum seekers charged with crimes in Nauru or Manus Island detention centres.
While the government will help asylum seekers detained on Nauru with their claims for protection under a memorandum of understanding with the island nation, it will not help people charged with crimes under Nauru's domestic laws while they are detained on Australia's behalf.
Concerns have been raised about the plight of 10 asylum seekers on Nauru charged with rioting and wilful damage in relation to an alleged riot at the Nauru processing centre in November.
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