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Manus Island: 'Pathetic' bureaucratic response blamed for asylum seeker Hamid Khazaei's death

ABC News ABC News 25/04/2016

The 24-year-old Iranian, Hamid Khazaei, had been on Manus Island for almost a year when he suddenly became unwell from a skin infection on his leg, and died 13 days later in Brisbane's Mater Hospital. © ABC News The 24-year-old Iranian, Hamid Khazaei, had been on Manus Island for almost a year when he suddenly became unwell from a skin infection on his leg, and died 13 days later in Brisbane's Mater Hospital. The urgent medical evacuation of a gravely ill asylum seeker from Manus Island was delayed by almost 30 hours partly because a public servant had gone home for the day and did not check his emails until the following morning.

That bureaucratic delay is labelled as "pathetic" by Australian Medical Association president Dr Brian Owler on tonight's Four Corners program on ABC TV.

It also took almost five hours for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection to respond to the initial evacuation request, and when it did, the department asked why the detainee could not be treated on Manus Island.

The 24-year-old Iranian, Hamid Khazaei, had been on Manus Island for almost a year when he suddenly became unwell from a skin infection on his leg, and died 13 days later in Brisbane's Mater Hospital.

The antibiotics available on Manus Island were unable to stop the infection and it rapidly progressed to septicaemia. Mr Khazaei suffered three heart attacks and his brain began dying before he was finally evacuated to Australia for medical treatment.

Mr Khazaei was first evacuated to Port Moresby on the afternoon of Tuesday August 26, 2014. But earlier that day a senior doctor from International SOS (ISOS) which was organising the evacuation, recommended instead that Mr Khazaei be evacuated directly to a hospital in Brisbane.

Speaking out for the first time, Dr Stewart Condon, who is now the president of Medicins San Frontieres Australia, told Four Corners that his Brisbane recommendation was not acted upon.

"That's certainly something that I strongly felt about some of these cases, that our recommendation to move to Port Moresby was inadequate," he said.

"Knowing the level of medical care available in Port Moresby and knowing that many of the similar cases we worked around the world would move to a place like Brisbane."

Doctors defy Border Force Act to speak out

Dr Condon and other doctors and healthworkers appearing in tonight's program, are risking potential imprisonment under the Border Force Act, which makes it illegal for people working within Australia's asylum seeker detention system to disclose information.

The Government has said that the Border Force Act is not designed to target doctors. Dr David Isaacs was one of the first Australian doctors to test the legislation by speaking out after he worked on Nauru with the Government's detention health services contractor International Health and Medical Services (IHMS).

"I don't think the Border Force Act is good legislation and I think it should be challenged," he said.

"Why haven't I been prosecuted? My feeling is that this legislation is not about actually imprisoning doctors, it's about silencing doctors, and others."

Mr Khazaei was finally pronounced dead at Brisbane's Mater Hospital on September 5, 2014 after a week on life support.

Hours before his death the then immigration minister Scott Morrison praised the quality of medical care received by detainees on Manus Island and Nauru.

"When someone becomes ill, they receive outstanding care from the people who work as part of our mainland detention network and in the offshore processing centres that are under the management of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Nauru," he said.

"IHMS who work as part of that team there do an outstanding job," he added.

Mr Khazaei's death is being investigated by the Queensland coroner with a pre-inquest hearing scheduled for June 10 this year.

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