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Issue #1762      January 25, 2017

Another life at risk on Nauru

A refugee man on Nauru who appears to have suffered a serious cardiac event more than one month ago is being denied access to urgent medical treatment after Australian authorities have failed to transfer him to a facility with appropriate testing and treatment options.

Medical experts warn that the man, who the Asylum Seekers Resource Centre (ASRC) are calling Yusuf, may be at severe risk of suffering a heart attack or further complications that could lead to significant harm unless he immediately receives more advanced medical treatment that is unavailable on Nauru.

The case comes as the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei, who died after being denied an urgent medical transfer in 2014, hears damning evidence of the litany of mistakes and failed responsibilities made by the Australian government and Department of Immigration in the lead-up to his death.

“We cannot allow Yusuf to become another appalling failure of our government’s duty of care – he must be transferred to safety immediately,” said Kon Karapanagiotidis, CEO of the ASRC.

“Yusuf’s treatment shows our government has learned nothing from the revelations from the inquest into the death of Hamid Khazaei.

“Australian authorities have a duty of care to refugees and people seeking asylum regardless of whether they are in detention centres or living in the community offshore and they are once again failing in that responsibility,” he said.

“It is clear that Yusuf requires immediate medical transfer,” said Natasha Blucher, ASRC Detention Rights Advocate.

“He has described ongoing symptoms to me, which medical specialists have explained are indicative of ongoing cardiac problems. These symptoms include sweating, pain in the chest that moves to the left side of body and very cold hands.”

Despite the seriousness of his condition, he has been waiting for urgent medivac for more than one month. He is terrified.

The information Yusuf has given advocates once again raises serious questions about the adequacy of medical care for refugees and people seeking asylum on Nauru.

Yusuf is a refugee man in his 30s and living in the community on Nauru. On around November 5 Yusuf says he felt dizzy, had numb feet, strange sweats on his body and cold hands. He presented at Republic of Nauru hospital where doctors conducted an electrocardiogram and blood tests.

Yusuf was told that his condition was very serious and that he could not be treated on Nauru. He was then transferred to the IHMS clinic on Nauru where they did further tests and told him the doctor at the hospital was correct, and that he needed an angiogram which cannot be done on Nauru.

Yusuf completed paperwork and was told he would be sent to Papua New Guinea on 23 November. This date came and went and nothing happened.

On around December 1, a doctor told him that the transfer did not happen as there had been no planes leaving Nauru. Yusuf was told that flights had resumed and he would be transferred within the next week. Despite these assurances he is still in his home on Nauru.

He has described ongoing symptoms sweating, pain in the chest that moves to the left side of body, and very cold hands that are recurring every 2-3 days or when he walks or exerts himself.

“Yusuf does not care where he goes, he just wants to receive treatment and to stay alive,” said Natasha Blucher.

Dr Clare Arnott, a cardiologist based in Australia, has reviewed copies of Yusuf’s medical notes that he was able to photograph while in hospital and offered her assessment of the seriousness of his case. Yusuf was not provided with his complete medical records from the hospital or the outcomes of his tests.

“This young man presented with left sided chest pain, diaphoresis (sweating) and dizziness. Such a presentation is potentially serious and conditions such as acute coronary syndrome, bradycardia and pulmonary embolus should be excluded,” said Clare Arnett, cardiologist.

“I have very limited information from his medical records but I understand that based on clinical assessment, examination, serial ECGs and Troponin blood tests his treating doctors were concerned that he was suffering from ‘severe bradycardia and acute coronary syndrome’.”

His doctors recommended referral for specialist medical care and I agree with this assessment based on my limited information.”

“Furthermore, he has ongoing recurrent exertional chest pain which is of great concern. This for me increases the urgency of his condition,” said Dr Arnett.

It is clear that Yusuf requires a level of medical care that is unavailable on Nauru.

The ASRC is calling on Australian authorities to immediately evacuate Yusuf to a facility where he can receive the urgent medical treatment he requires.

Next article – Mental health sector unites

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